Hundreds of Zambian workers at a Chinese-owned copper mine go on strike demanding higher pay, just two weeks after a new president took office on the promise of improving mining conditions.
CHAMBISHI, ZAMBIA (OCTOBER 7, 2011) REUTERS - Strikes spread in Zambia's copper industry on Friday (October 7), with more than 500 workers at a Chinese plant demanding higher pay, just two weeks after a new president took office on the promise of improving mining conditions.
"I can assure you my President Mr Michael Sata if you are listening to me, if the Chinese people if not they increase our salary better Chinese people go to China," said Lazarus Chanda, a representative of the workers.
NFC Africa mining human resources manager Cheng Zhigang said the strike was illegal because the union and management at the copper mine were preparing to begin wage negotiations in November.
"We are complaining because of the low salaries that we get. We work for Sino metals and we produce copper - about 600 tonnes every month - but the salaries that we get is about two percent of what we produce," said mineworker Humphrey Betela.
Zambian President Michael Sata, nicknamed 'King Cobra', won elections in the southern African country on populist message that included criticism of foreign investors and promises to improve the lives of workers.
"I think this issue must be solved by government. Our company currently we don't have any measure to cool down this situation, to extinguish this fire," said Cheng.
Sata last week met Chinese ambassador Zhou Yuxiao, in an effort to dispel fears his sometimes harsh stance against China would translate into a shift in investment policy.
However, he also made clear that Chinese companies, which have so far ploughed more than $2 billion into developing the mining sector in the southern African country, would not get preferential treatment.About two thousand Zambian workers at NFC Africa Mining, majority-owned by China Nonferrous Metals Mining Corporation, went on a strike on Tuesday (October 4) demanding higher wages.