* Lusaka has been taking nationalist posture
* Message: you need our permission to cut jobs
By Chris Mfula
LUSAKA, Nov 13 Zambia, Africa's top copper
producer, warned mining companies that any moves to lay off
workers without consulting the government would be seen as a
violation of their investment licences.
President Michael Sata, a populist who swept to power two
years ago on an activist platform to defend workers' rights, has
been taking a hard line with miners and other foreign companies
that have tried to lay off workers.
"It has been observed that some investors in some mining
companies have found it necessary to downsize their workforce
each time they are faced with operational challenges," the
government said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Government views such actions as a violation of, and not
within the spirit of the investment licence."
The government added that it was "unwarranted, unfortunate
and unacceptable" for mining companies to cut jobs before
consulting the government and other stakeholders.
This week Zambia revoked the work permit of the chief
executive of Konkola Copper Mines, its biggest private sector
employer owned by Vedanta Resources, as the latest move
in a dispute over its plan to cut hundreds of jobs.
Sata's government also last month threatened to shut
Shoprite stores after the South African company fired
workers who went on strike over pay. Shoprite, Africa's biggest
retailer, subsequently backtracked on the sackings.
FROM CONFUSION TO CLARITY
"You now have to go to the government to get approval for
firing workers. This clarifies that the cost of doing business
in Zambia, especially as it relates to labour, is higher than
people thought in the past," Chris Becker, Africa market
strategist at ETM Analytics, said.
"They are trying to stake their position on this, and at
least it is giving some clarity now and we know what to expect,
because there has been so much confusion the last few weeks,
starting with Shoprite," he said.
Zambia is not alone when it comes to state or political
intervention to protect jobs in a region where unemployment
levels are high and subsistence farmers make up much of the
workforce, putting a high social premium on a regular wage.
Senior officials with South Africa's ruling African National
Congress threatened the licences of Anglo American Platinum
earlier this year over its plan to cut up to 14,000
jobs as it tries to restore profits.
They also expressed anger at Amplats' alleged lack of
consultation over the proposed layoffs. Amplats, a unit of Anglo
American, has since pulled back its target under intense
government and union pressure.
Elsewhere in Africa such as in neighbouring Zimbabwe,
government barbs are often aimed at investors from the west or
South Africa, while pointedly sparing those from China, in part
because of Beijing's policy of offering aid, soft loans and
investment with no strings attached.
In Zambia, however, Sata's nationalist posture has in the
past also targeted Chinese investors, whom he has accused of
ill-treating Zambian workers or of not providing enough jobs to
Mining companies in Zambia include First Quantum Mineral
, Glencore International, Vale and