The National Empowerment Forum (NEF) has called for level-headedness in negotiations with mining companies over the looming job cuts as copper prices have continued to dwindle on the global market.
Executive director Edgar Siakachoma said threatening mining companies over their decisions to lay off workers in the wake of a drop in profit margins will only exacerbate the situation which may lead to a stand-off between mining firms and Government.
Mr. Siakachoma noted that there was no business house that would be happy to produce at a loss, saying some mining companies’ decision to streamline their workforce was justified and that the development needed to be handled in a mature way.
He said while it was important for Government to save the impending job losses, it was equally essential that negotiations were done in a mutual way, bearing in mind that the economic crisis in which the mining firms had found themselves in was a global phenomenon.
“There is need for Government to take these negotiations over job losses cautiously so that it doesn’t appear as though mining companies are at fault. This should be done on a mutual basis so that a long-lasting solution can be found,” Mr. Siakachoma said.
He has however advised some mining companies not to lay off employees but instead maximize their output so that they could have high turnovers even though the copper prices were low.
“Even in the midst of these challenges that mines are facing, those that can manage can still make more money by producing more even if the prices are low, thereby making high turnover and this could also work to their advantage and in the process safeguard employment for the locals,” he said.
Anxiety has heightened in the Zambian mining sector over possible mass job losses.
Glencore, a unit of Mopani Copper Mine which is the largest employer in Zambia’s mining sector with an estimated workforce of 20,000, plans to lay off at least 4000 workers as a result of the slump in copper prices.
This has prompted the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) to call for dialogue among the company, Government and other stakeholders in a bid to save the looming job losses in the industry.
MUZ president Nkole Chishimba told the Daily Nation recently that MUZ would continue engaging the mining giant in a bid to find a long-lasting solution in order to keep the firm operational.
In a related development last week, Chief Government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili said Glencore had not yet informed the Government officially of its intentions to stop operations at Baluba mine, where it sent over 1,600 workers on leave.