More mine work stoppages coming, says union

Copper mining companies operating in Zambia should brace themselves for more strikes this year unless they meet wage demands, union officials warned Wednesday.

As strike action at Kansanshi Copper Mines, Zambia’s largest producer by output, entered a second day Wednesday, Sikufela Mundia, president of National Union of Miners and Allied Workers, said copper mining companies must offer more than 11% pay increments to workers this year or risk widespread strikes which could paralyze the sector.

“At the moment we are trying to see how we can resolve the stalemate at Kansanshi but other mine houses should prepare to meet our demands,” he said, adding that under the previous government most mining companies wouldn’t offer more than 11% because they had strong political backing.

Godfrey Msiska, the Kansanshi Copper Mine spokesman, described the strike as illegal saying that the workers didn’t follow proper procedures before going on strike.

“We are still consulting with various stakeholders to try and bring the strike to an end,” he said, adding that output remains suspended. Zambia’s miners unions always negotiate annual labor deals with companies operating in the country.

Following the election of Michael Sata as Zambian president in September a wave of strikes have engulfed the country’s mining sector, as workers agitate for pay increments. Mr. Sata had premised his campaigns on populist promises such as improving miners’ conditions.

Union representatives are continuing with talks with companies such as Konkola Copper Mines, a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC and Mopani Copper Mines, a joint venture between Swiss commodity trader Glencore International AG and Toronto-listed First Quantum Minerals Ltd.

Angered by the slow pace of labor talks at Kansanshi, miners went on strike Tuesday, paralyzing output. The workers want a 20% pay increment and other benefits, and have rejected management’s offer of 9% pay rise, according to union officials.

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