Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Chinese Firm Almost Fires 900 Workers Over Salaries

One of the bridges on the Mongu-Kalabo road
By Paul Shalala in Mongu

Construction works on the K1.3 billion Mongu-Kalabo road in Western Province has resumed following a tense week in which workers protested violently over working conditions.

On Thursday, the Zambia Police Service was dispatched to the construction site to stop the protest which turned violent as workers destroyed construction equipment.

Later, Avic International was reported to have been in the process of dismissing the workers due to their violent conduct.

On Sunday, Labour Deputy Minister Rayford Mbulu and Mongu Central Member of Parliament Nathaniel Mubukwanu drove overnight to Mongu where they held a two hour closed door meeting with officials from Avic International and trade unions on Monday afternoon.

After the meeting, Mr Mbulu announced that no one among the 900 Avic workers would be fired.

"The company has agreed to extend an olive branch to all workers who took part in the protest. It is now time for workers to follow grievance channels and avoid unnecessary confrontations," said Mbulu, who is also Kalulushi Member of Parliament.

He also revealed that the Chinese firm had agreed to allow workers to either join an existing trade union or form their own.

And Avic International Project Manager Chen Wiau said the company had decided to forgive the striking workers due to Zambia's long standing relations with China.

"Zambia and China are long time friends. We are working here well. We want to complete this project on schedule," said the soft spoken Chen.

 According to resolutions of the meeting, the Chinese firm will now start giving payslips to its workers, it will also compile the debts it owes its workers and is further expected to raise its safety standards in the wake of two fatalities.

Avic International is constructing 27 road bridges across the Zambezi road from Mongu Harbour to an area called Tapo ahead of the raising of the road to bituminous standard.

900 workers are employed by the Chinese firm which is expected to hand over the multi-billion kwacha road project to the Zambian government in April 2016.

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