IRATE miners from Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) Nkana branch in Kitwe yesterday held hostage their branch union officials for several hours over alleged failure to effectively represent their interest during the on-going collective bargaining.
The miners locked up their union branch officials together with Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) general secretary Joseph Chewe and his National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW) counterpart Christopher Silute in the MUZ conference hall at Katilungu House in Kitwe.
The miners comprising shop stewards were incest with their union leaders for having succumbed to MCM management’s offer of 10.5 per cent salary increment, which was far below their demand of 30 per cent.
Tempers flared among the miners resulting in a near punch up between one of the shop stewards and Mr Silute.
This was after the shop stewards demanded for the immediate resignation of Nkana branch chairperson from all the unions namely MUZ, NUMAW and United Mineworkers Union of Zambia (UMUZ) and Zambia Union of Nurses Organisation (ZUNO) was trivialized by Mr Silute who stated that the demands were not tangible.
Unfolding of events started when the Nkana branch union leaders who included MUZ chairperson Philias Mwaba, NUMAW chairperson Sydney Mungule, UMUZ chairperson Collins Chansa and ZUNO chairlady only identified as Ms Mumba held a briefing with the shop stewards to give an update on the negotiations with management.
The briefing heated up when the union leaders broke the news that they could only sign for 10.5 per cent salary increment for unionised workers and seven per cent increment for management staff.
This did not go down well with the shop stewards who accused the union officials of being compromised.
It was then that Mr Chewe and Mr Silute joined the meeting with the aim to calm things down.
A Times reporter who sneaked through into the conference hall around 11:00 hours found tempers had flared among the shop stewards who reacted by blocking the entrance to deny exit of the union leaders demanding that they first resign immediately.
The shop stewards who asked to have their names withheld said they would rather have no salary increment than have union leaders who were serving no purpose.
“Mopani management has got no problem except that you, our union leaders have let us down and since you have disappointed us the general consensus is that all the branch chairpersons should resign immediately.
“We are not going out of this place until this is done if it means postponing the afternoon negotiations let that be done because we are even ready to forfeit the 10.5 per cent because that doesn’t matter to us anymore except to see the resignation of branch chairpersons,” a group spokesperson said.
Order was only restored around 13:00 hours when the branch leaders succumbed to the demands for them to resign.