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Copperbelt miners strike

About 600 miners at the Chibuluma mine in Zambia’s northern Copperbelt region went on strike this week demanding three months’ back pay, according to Zambian press reports on Thursday. At the nearby Ndola Lime Company, some 300 miners were reported to have taken similar action.

Andrew Mwanza, president of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ), who announced the action, said he had urged the men to return to work to facilitate negotiations. But he added: “You cannot casualise mining because the mine was reaping more while the workers were getting peanuts.” He said there was also concern among members that the mine had hired lower paid casual workers who did not have recourse to employment benefits.

An economic analyst in Zambia who requested anonymity, told IRIN that the industrial action was not suprising. He said there was concern that the recently confirmed sale of a a number of key Zambian mines at a fraction of the price previously rejected would have “a strong and immediate” impact on the country’s economy.

According to statistics published by the Bank of Zambia, the country currently has an external debt of US $7.1 billion, with monthly inflation figures ranging between 1.6 percent in July to 1.4 percent in September last year and 2.1 percent in October.

Macro-economic indicators, the analyst said, confirmed a sharp downturn in the country’s economic health, with outstanding balance of payments support from the donor community unlikely to materialise before the second quarter.

He said that food riots in Zambia’s history had traditionally taken their cue from incidents of labour unrest in Zambia’s Copperbelt. “It can be assumed therefore that the situation will remain manageable for as long as the government is able to meet payments related to the massive retrenchment of miners.”

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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