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Zambian Minister Condemns Killing of Chinese Mine Manager

An aerial view of an Equinox copper mine in Lumwana, Zambia, which a Chinese company has expressed interest in buying. (Reuters image)
Zambia’s minister of labor and social security said the weekend killing of a Chinese mine manager was a criminal act that had nothing to do with an industrial dispute involving a new minimum wage.

Reports quoting a local police commissioner said 50 year-old Wu Shengzai of the Collum Coal mine, south of Lusaka, was killed by protesting workers after he was hit by a trolley.

The incident came as workers protested the mining company’s implementation of the wage law. Wages for maids were raised to $100 and $220 for shop workers.

Labor Minister Fackson Shamenda said the law does not include workers who are represented by trade unions.

“The law does not cover for those who are represented by the trade unions but, in the same law, it indicates that when unions are negotiating with their employers, they should bear in mind that they should not negotiate below what is the minimum wage. So, these people want to take advantage of that, and that’s how they caused this problem at the mine,” he said.

Shamenda denies his government raised the minimum wage without consulting the unions.

“As I have said, the unions negotiate for their salaries. The government has got no role to play in that,” he said.

Shamenda said there are three forms of wage determination in Zambia.

“One is through collective bargaining, where unions negotiate with their employers and government is not involved. The other determination of wages is that by individual contract involving management staff. They agree with their employer and they sign a contact. The third involves those people who are not covered by any trade union or by any individual contracts, like the shop workers and the maids,” he said.

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In 2010, the government charged two Chinese managers at the same Collum Coal mine with attempted murder after they allegedly opened fire on a group of protesting miners wounding 11.

Shamenda blames poor industrial relations for the heightened tensions at the Collum mine. But, he said his ministry will be sending some of its managers to help train company and union representatives.

“That’s why I have directed the workers and some of the union representatives that they should improve their industrial relations. I have directed that I will be sending some of my officers, and I expect management to sit down with the workers so that we can train some of their representatives,” Shamenda said.