(Dow Jones)- Workers at Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines have rejected a 12% pay rise offer, a union official said Monday, in the latest wage dispute to hit the mining sector of Africa’s largest copper-producing nation.
The miners are seeking at least a 20% increase to meet escalating living costs, Godwell Kaluba, general secretary of the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers, told Dow Jones Newswires.
More than 3,000 miners at Mopani, Zambia’s third-largest copper and cobalt producer, staged a sit-down strike Saturday, disrupting output for more than 12 hours, union officials said. A company official described the miners’ wage demands as “unrealistic” saying that company is also suffering higher production costs, occasioned by higher prices of fuel, consumables as well as lower ore grades.
Kaluba said the miners have resumed work pending the resumption of talks, after the labor minister intervened.
“We are now preparing to go back to the negotiating table this week,” Kaluba said.
The strike came just a couple of days after Konkola Copper Mines, the second-largest copper miner, offered a 17% pay rise to its workers, bring the pay of the lowest paid miner at the company to a record $586.40 a month.
Mopani, a unit of Swiss commodity trading company Glencore International AG (GLEN.LN), has capacity to produce at least 200,000 metric tons of copper every year. Saturday’s strike compelled management to ship the day’s copper concentrates for treatment at KCM’s Nchanga smelter, officials said.
A wave of strikes have hit Zambia’s copper sector since late last year, as workers continue to agitate for pay increments following the election of President Michael Sata, who trounced incumbent Rupiah Banda having premised his campaign on populist promises such as improving miners’ conditions.
In a bid to avoid labor unrest, companies such as London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC (VED.LN) and China Nonferrous Metals Co. (8306.HK) have offered pay increments to miners in recent week