Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) agreed on Wednesday to a 20% salary rise with workers, Mine Workers Union of Zambia (Muz) general secretary Oswell Munyenyembe told Reuters.

Munyenyembe said the unions had initially asked for 80% while management had offered 18%.

The production of copper was disrupted two weeks ago at Mopani, the second largest copper producer in the southern African country, when miners downed tools, rejecting the 18% salary rise.

Munyenyembe said the unions agreed to a 20% salary rise due to intimidation from the government although the miners would be unhappy with the outcome. The unions however, do not expect any strike.

“We have agreed to a 20% salary rise because of circumstances beyond us such as the threats by the government to deregister any unions that would cause strikes at the (copper) mines which were issued by the labour minister… we took the threats seriously,” Munyenyembe told Reuters.

The Mopani management also agreed to pay 30 percent tax slapped on workers’ house allowance by the government for all its 10 000 permanent employees, he added.

“This is really not the best deal but we will take it. We were asking for an 80 percent salary increase because that would have made us achieve a living wage for our members and also because the copper mines are making good profits due to higher copper prices,” Munyenyembe said.

He said the lowest paid miners at Mopani were receiving up to $195 dollars in monthly pay before adding overtime pay prior to the new pay agreement.

Mopani said last September it expects to boost copper output to 300 000 t in 2007 from 220 000 last year after upgrading a smelter at Mufulira smelter, about 420 km north of the capital Lusaka. The smelter was upgraded to treat 1-million t of copper concentrate per year from 420 000 t previously.

Mopani, a consortium comprising Canada’s First Quantum Minerals and Swiss firm Glencore International AG, operates the Nkana and Mufulira copper and cobalt mines, which account for almost 30 percent of Zambia’s total metals output.

Glencore International AG, owns a 73,1% stake in Mopani, while First Quantum holds 16.9 percent. The balance is owned by the ZCCM Investments Holdings on behalf of the Zambian government.

Munyenyembe said many highly qualified miners were quitting Mopani and joining new mines run by First Quantum Minerals, which paid better salaries.

“They are losing a number of qualified staff because of low salaries. First Quantum is paying well in their new mines,” Munyenyembe said.

By Reuters

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