Mine job losses

When the minister of Finance Mr. Alexander Chikwanda tried to seek an amicable settlement of the huge withholding VAT overhang with the mines, critics accused him of benefitting from the scheme.

A few months later, down the line the overhang has become an issue with the mines blaming part of their crisis as a direct result of the huge amounts of money owed.

Ironically, the same critics who impugned negative motivation are reporting gleefully and with an amount of malice over the circumstances the mines find themselves in and especially for the various measures they must take to ameliorate the situation

It is regrettable that senior citizens who should know better are making very careless, provocative and mindless statements regarding the loss of jobs as a result of the current economic crisis.

Particular attention seems focused on the mines all because of the political impact and mileage that these losses will generate.

Often the figures are not in context and are banded around with the intention of causing despondency, alarm and in the process gain political mileage.

It is also unfortunate that mining companies are failing to explain the circumstances and factors necessitating retrenchments and layoffs.

There is no doubt that the combination of electricity generation deficit in Zambia and all time rout of copper prices is forcing mines to take cost conservation measures which include laying off some employees – a very sore point between government, unions and the general populace.

The electricity imported from Mozambique and other sources to mitigate the crisis is purchased at a premium which further undermines profitability.

So far to date almost all the mines have engaged in conserving measures but these are of limited effect because ultimately the crunch must be faced.

However, contrary to the wild claims and assertions most companies are not only contending with the crisis but are in fact making every effort to retain necessary jobs to ensure a reasonable handshake with employees who choose separation. This is particularly true of Mopani which is making every effort not only to mitigate human suffering but is also investing very heavily in technology that will reduce production costs.

This has meant the sinking of new shafts which are expected to come on stream in the next 18 months.

Amid all this several other sections of the mine have continued but inevitably these will be at skeleton level.

However, dire the circumstances appear, there is a willingness on the part of mines to continue working because of serious investment and the potential that the mines hold.

Therefore statements made by such prominent people as former secretary to the cabinet sketchley Sacika predicting social upheaval of catastrophic proportions because of depreciation induced in part by low copper prices and subsequent downsizing of work forces are not only irresponsible but a clear misplacement of loyalties.

Instead of praying for catastrophe, Mr. Sacika should be amongst Zambians spreading the message of hope.

It is a very sad commentary that foreign investors continue to express hope in our economy and yet our own people who should know better are not only cynical but out rightly despondent.

The figures of retrenchments and layoffs must be seen in their totality because mining houses employ more people than the largest employer, government.

Such mines as Mopani have more than 20,000 employees in both direct employment and contractual engagement through sub-contractors.

The scale of layoffs must be contrasted against these figures.

Those Zambians concerned with job losses must do so with a level mind and an understanding of the dynamics operative in the industry.

It is a severe disservice to fan anarchy and disaffection for political gain because any outbreak of instability will undermine the economy by planting the seed of fear amongst investors who have thus withstood the shocks.

Categorized | Editorial

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