By ANDREW MUKOMA
LUAPULA Mine operating in Mansa has been warned to up their game or risk facing serious consequences.
Labour Commissioner Givens Muntengwa conducted the first inspection at Luapula Mine last year in August which revealed contraventions against the law where workers were found working without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Further, it was discovered that sanitation and health standards at the mine were in a deplorable state and no proper contracts were given to the employees hence the mine was given the first warning pending correction of the issues uncovered.
In view of this background, Mr Muntengwa conducted a follow-up inspection on January 15, 2022 where he observed that the company has bought PPEs for its employees though not meeting the required standards for the Mine safety.
“Following the directives, we decided to conduct a follow-up inspection of which the Ministry has observed that the safety boots that the mine bought were ordinary ones and this is undesirable for mines especially for employees who handle stones that can cause fatalities in the mine. Therefore, on that basis, the company has been given sometime to correct this situation,” he said.
Further, Mr Muntengwa added that the gloves that were bought are meant to be used in the cold season and not as prescribed for the usage in mining manganese thereby exposing employees to danger.
In terms of health and sanitation, he said he is happy that a proper kitchen and hostels have been built for employees residing within the premises.
However, Mr Muntengwa could not hide his displeasure when he realised that the mine is practicing casualisation contrary to the laws of Zambia.
“Those employees who are loading stones are casual employees who earn daily and we are saying no to that because that kind of an activity is the one that is there to sustain the company in the line of production by law cannot be engaged in casualisation. We have guided that the company engage employees and put them on fixed contracts”, the Commissioner charged.
He has since warned that he will shortly arrange to visit the company to assess if the recommendations are implemented.
Mr Muntengwa said that in the next follow-up inspection, the Ministry expects to find employees with written contracts adding that the interest of the Ministry of Labour is to ensure that there is harmony in the labour market and bring social dialogue between employers and employees and that none of the two parties must be perceived to be taking advantage of the other.
And speaking on behalf of MMRP trading as Luapula Mine Technical Manager, Manoj Raju acknowledged having given the wrong safety boots to employees but willing to do things in the right manner in accordance with guidance provided by the Labour Office.
Mr Raju also admitted that the company compromised on the quality of gloves given to employees and that new procurement of proper gloves will be purchased to protect the welfare of employees.
In casualisation, he noted that his company will seek guidance from the Ministry of Labour so as to enable more people in the community to get employed on a permanent basis.