By Mainda Simataa (General Secretary of ELA Zambia), 02.10.17, http://www.elazambia.org/
A History of Exploitation
Vedanta Corporation of Indian, a British listed company that bought Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) for a scandalous low price of US $25 million dollars in 2001, and recouped that money within seven months of taking over the mine, has never ceased to be at the center of controversy in Zambia’s totally foreign occupied mining industries.
From polluting rivers and poisoning drinking water supplies with toxic mining effluent, to dodging taxes by the billions, to pursuing a policy of replacing human miners with machines, KCM remains the leading tax evader, labour exploiter, and a corporate enemy number one of the Zambian people!
Outsourcing – Squeezing Out More, Giving Back Less to Workers!
The latest scandal from KCM, commonly referred to by its victims – the workers, as Kanchule Copper Mines (Make me Suffer Copper Mines), is that it has decided that the best way to make yet more profits for its shareholders and directors abroad is to transfer the burden of responsibility for thousands of workers in its employ, to another company – a Chinese company that promises to pay the workers less, and at the same time make them work harder for less money and no job security, not to mention no medical care or compensation for injury and risks to the miners!
Other Foreign Companies Engaged in Outsourcing in Zambia
But KCM is not the first nor the only company to outsource other companies to manage particular departments within the business structures. The giants in Zambia’s Telecoms industry, Airtel and MTN (both Indian owned), sold their workers to Tech Mahindra and ISON respectively, and the results for workers have been terrible!
Also the hospitality/tourist industry companies like Avani Hotels which out-rightly but silently took over the running of former Royal Livingstone and Sun Hotels in Zambia’s tourist capital – Livingstone, and transferred all its workers to the new employer without giving them separation benefits, have all engaged in outsourcing to maximize profits while suppressing workers!
KCM Benefits from Outsourcing Big Time
The benefit of dumping workers to another company thereby lowers KCM’s wage bill, and thus increases its profits. This process of dumping workers to another sub-standard mediocre paying company means technically and literally, the firing of workers and having them instantly re-hired by a new contractor without the workers consent. The new ’employer’ pays them significantly lower wages, and offers slave conditions of service, while the new employers continue to extract more labour out of the workers who continue to perform the same jobs in the same company, and usually for extended hours without overtime! This is the dumping of workers to slave-driving ruthless contractors!
Miners Betrayed by Government and Unions
KCM miners have been betrayed, and not for the first time. In recent years KCM has been pushing to cut down 4,000 workers from its labour force and throw them on the street on the pretext that its profitability is low. But the profitability excuse has proved controversial and futile because copper prices have remained fairly high between $5400 and $6000 per tonne, with other mining companies in the industry like Lumwana and FQM-owned Kansanshi posting record profits from gold and copper revenues and remitting taxes, though this tax remittance is a drop in the ocean compared to what the mining multinationals make in Zambia.
KCM Opens Pandora’s Box in Exploitation of Miners
KCM has therefore now found a ‘legitimate’ but immoral opening with outsourcing,and with the help of compromised and toothless unions, and the blessings of a corrupt-to-the-core capitalist shoe-kissing PF government which is in bed with foreign investors, KCM has finally an ally in the government and has got its wish to dump workers as the government sheds crocodile tears!
KCM has also set a dangerous precedence and example for other mining companies to follow, and has opened the way to further dumping and exploitation of miners and all workers in general, by other companies who will also take this golden opportunity to maximize profits by minimizing labour costs through out-sourcing!
The Zambian miner has lost! The KCM workers have been thrown to the wolves of Chinese imperialism in Africa, workers have been abandoned and left defenseless, and more will follow.
This new scourge of outsourcing and force-ably handing over workers to less viable employers/companies at worse-off conditions is not only immoral, but it is also criminal and it must be fought and stopped by all who mean well, and by all means necessary! Remember:
* Government will not fight for workers – they are in the business of selling-out workers!
* The unions will not fight and represent workers – they are in the business of betraying workers and representing management interests!
* In the final analysis therefore, workers must unite and fight to free themselves from exploitation!
Aluta Continua – the struggle must continue!