Minister, union defend Chinese labor conditions

THE Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) has refused to entirely blame the Chinese-owned mining companies over the ‘flouting’ of the country’s labour laws saying Chinese investors have certain positives that have benefited Zambians in many ways.
Newly-elected MUZ president Oswell Munyenyembe said in an interview yesterday in Kitwe his union cannot entirely blame the Chinese companies because other mining houses are equally culprits.
“We cannot wholesomely condemn the Chinese-owned mining houses. Remember when we had the global crisis, no worker was retrenched at any Chinese mine. Yes, they have their own problems like mistreating workers and not following labour laws, but other mining houses are also culprits in this area. It is not only the Chinese mining companies,” he said.
Mr Munyenyembe, however, urged the Chinese companies to ensure that they follow the country’s labour laws and desist from harassing their workers.
He was reacting to the report released by the United Kingdon-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in which the watchdog has accused Chinese minies of abusing workers and blamed Government for being indifferent to the plight of the miners.
Mr Munyenyembe said investors must work hand in hand with their workers to promote industrial harmony.
“We want the Chinese and other investors in the mining industry to respect the labour laws, to respect rights of their workers. They must pay the workers well and they must ensure that the safety of the people is a priority,” Mr Munyenyembe said.
And Government says not only Chinese Mining companies have been flouting labour laws but all employers should try and ensure their workers are properly looked after.
Deputy Minister of Labour Rayford Mbulu says Government has been prompted to quickly and effectively revise labour laws and regulations because of revelations that have shown how workers in the country continue to be exploited because of the harsh conditions of service they operate under.
Mr Mbulu said Government intends to put in place laws which will ensure companies that flout them are slapped with stiff sanctions to deter others.
He said in an interview in Lusaka that the country’s current labour laws are intolerable because they do not adequately address issues that are on the ground.
“The labour laws in the country are intolerable, and we need to put in place stiffer laws and penalties that will make people responsible when they abrogate them,” he said.
He said issues concerning safety of workers should be the priority of any company because this reduces accidents making the company more productive.

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