Zambian mine death puts China relations in spotlight

Ray

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Zambian mine death puts China relations in spotlight


The death of a Chinese mine supervisor during a protest over wages at the Chinese-owned Collum coal mine in Zambia's Southern Province has brought the uneasy African-Chinese working relationship into the spotlight again.

This is not the first time the Collum mine has been the site of controversy, with a history of complaints and even gunfire. The Zambian government's response will now be watched closely.

Back in 2006, the Minister for Southern Province wept on national television saying workers were "kept like pigs" and "kicked and beaten as though they are not human beings" while working without safety equipment. Four years later in October 2010, a worker protest was met with indiscriminate gunfire into the crowd from Chinese managers. Charges against the culprits were subsequently dropped.

That was under a previous government. The current ruling party, the Patriotic Front led by Michael Sata, fought its way to power over the course of four elections by taking a hard line on labour abuses in foreign-owned industries – in particular the Chinese owned mines.

In previous campaigns, Sata threatened to throw Chinese traders out of the country. Anti-Chinese protests took place in both the mineral-rich Copperbelt province – where the majority of Chinese investment is concentrated – and in the capital, Lusaka.

Although Sata dropped the explicit anti-Chinese rhetoric in his successful 2011 election campaign for a more pragmatic focus on general investor responsibility he still typecast the incumbent president, Rupiah Banda, as corrupted by Chinese influence, and has been elected as an expected champion of the put-upon low-wage worker.

The incident highlights the competing pressures acting on the government from low-wage workers demanding a greater share of Zambia's mineral wealth and boisterous economic growth on the one hand, and on the other foreign investors with different expectations of appropriate labour relations.

The government's immediate reaction has been to represent the killing as an isolated incident rather than a variant of a long-running problem of animosity between workers and management in Chinese firms, with Minister of Labour Fackson Shamenda describing the perpetrators as "a bunch of criminals who took advantage of the disturbance."

Speaking to beyondbrics, Padraig Carmody, a specialist in Sino-Africa labour relations at Trinity College Dublin and author of The New Scramble for Africa, explains: "Sata wants to re-position Zambia towards the west, but has had to moderate his stance because China is so important to Zambia in terms of trade and investment. He appears very conscious of the need to be diplomatic – his first visitor after the election was the Chinese ambassador."

With the government estimating the total sum of Chinese investment in Zambia by the end of 2011 to be $2.4bn – around 20 per cent of GDP – China remains by far the most important economic partner for Africa's top copper producing nation.

China is similarly conscious of the need for a better public image in the country. Besides the huge investment into mines and infrastructure, it also funded a new national football stadium in the city of Ndola, which staged its first match in June.
The furore around labour relations in Zambia presents a different kind of challenge to the ones which Chinese mining companies are used to.

"When one or two people get hurt in Zambia it makes international news, but it has to be put in the context of Chinese labour regimes", Carmody says. "Official estimates are that 5,000 Chinese coal workers are killed every year, but some NGOs estimate it's up to 20,000."

"Labour conditions in Chinese-owned Zambian mines are reflective of similar conditions in domestic Chinese industry, with an attitude of 'go for growth first and worry about environment and labour safety later'," adds Carmody.

As beyondbrics reported last month, at the Forum on China Africa Cooperation in Beijing, the Chinese government announced a further $20bn of loans to Africa by way of demonstrating its commitment to its development. The casualties at Collum may be low compared with the Chinese mining industry, but they speak of the wider difficulties with China's efforts to charm the continent.

Zambian mine death puts China relations in spotlight | beyondbrics
This indicates how China exploits the Africans and yet pretends that they are doing it only for the good of Africans.

Hypocrite and criminals.
 

Ray

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Of course they should not have killed the Chinese supervisor.

Why take it out on this Chinese employee when the greed is of the Chinese who run the company and encouraged by the Chinese greedy Govt.

It just shows the reality of China who pretend to be friends but sucks every drop of blood and treat every other people as untermenchen!
 

badguy2000

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the news suggests that Statutory minimum wage in Zambia is 320USD/per month.....

however,according to worldbank(tp://data.worldbank.org/country/zambia ),Zambia's GNI is only 1160USD......so, the ratio of Statutory minimum wage/GNI=320*12/1160=331%

does anyone know the meaning?

BTW,
in a normal country, such a ratio usually is less than 50%

for example,
Hongkongese Statutory minimum wage is 1040USD(8000HKD)/per month, its GNI is 35160USD, the ratio =1040*12/35160=35%



such a crazy law is why industry activity can not prospers in the country and why the country is the most undeveloped economy.
 
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Ray

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the news suggests that Statutory minimum wage in Zambia is 320USD/per month.....
Where has it stated this?

Or have I missed this?

It has said:

competing pressures acting on the government from low-wage workers demanding a greater share of Zambia's mineral wealth
 

Ray

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Zambia: Workers Detail Abuse in Chinese-Owned Mines

(Lusaka) – Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia routinely flout labor laws and regulations designed to protect workers' safety and the right to organize
Workers safety in mines and the right to unionise is the right of any worker in a democratic country. Flouting laws is feasible when there is collusion between the Chinese companies and the Govt.

The 122-page report, "'You'll Be Fired If You Refuse': Labor Abuses in Zambia's Chinese State-owned Copper Mines," details the persistent abuses in Chinese-run mines, including poor health and safety conditions, regular 12-hour and even 18-hour shifts involving arduous labor, and anti-union activities, all in violation of Zambia's national laws or international labor standards. The four Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia are subsidiaries of China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation, a state-owned enterprise under the authority of China's highest executive body.
The working conditions exacted by the Chinese companies as per this Report does indicate excessive and unacceptable exploitation of workers. It is obvious that the workers will rebel against such inhuman exploitation.

However, one has to note is the same conditions are applicable in China so that one understands the Chinese labour and employment norms.

Maybe in China, these conditions that they apply to Zambian workers are the same they apply to Chinese workers in China.

Even if they do apply the same conditions, it still is not acceptable by international standards, be it in China or Zambia.

"China's significant investment in Zambia's copper mining industry can benefit both Chinese and Zambians," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "But the miners in Chinese-run companies have been subject to abusive health, safety, and labor conditions and longtime government indifference."
There is no doubt that if there are cordial relations, China and Zambia will still reap a rich harvest. Therefore, it is essential that the Chinese companies comply with the law so that the relations between the two countries do not sour.

Though the present Head of the Zambian Govt is very critical of the Chinese exploitation of Zambian workers, he has been unable to enforce the application of Zambian labour laws. One does not know his compulsions. Maybe the Chinese advancing a huge aid to Zambia has made him change his mind.

"Sometimes when you find yourself in a dangerous position, they tell you to go ahead with the work," an underground miner at Non-Ferrous China Africa (NFCA) told Human Rights Watch. "They just consider production, not safety. If someone dies, he can be replaced tomorrow. And if you report the problem, you'll lose your job."
This surely is not acceptable under any conditions.

"Many of the poor health and safety practices we found in Zambia's Chinese-run mines look strikingly similar to abuses we see in China," Bekele said. "Respecting labor laws and ensuring workers' safety should be standard operating practice both in China and abroad, not treated as an irritating barrier to greater profits."

In addition to their poor safety standards, several Chinese-run copper operations in Zambia require miners to work brutally long shifts, despite difficult conditions involving extreme heat and contact with acids and noxious chemicals. Many miners at Sino Metals work five 12-hour shifts a week as well as a sixth 18-hour "change shift" when they rotate from the day shift to the night shift or vice versa. Other miners there described working 365 days without a single day off. Zambian law specifies a 48-hour work week, and every other multinational copper mining company uses 8-hour shifts that comply with this law. Several miners said the long hours contributed to accidents, and many complained about failing to receive proper overtime.
This is an damning commentary of the conditions.

The curtailment of union activity hampers the ability to address these and other issues of concern to workers – particularly pay, which is higher than Zambia's monthly minimum wage, but much lower than that paid by other multinational copper mining firms in Zambia. Several Chinese-run operations have prevented workers from exercising their right to join the labor union of their choice through threats and intimidation. Miners in companies run by the Chinese or other multinationals also described retaliation against outspoken union representatives, including docked pay or refusal to renew their contracts.
Union activity is a natural right of workers in democratic counties and it cannot be curtailed, even if such activities are not allowed in China. Any steps preventing the same are against the fundamental rights to form trade unions and are quite unacceptable.

However, one just cannot blame the Chinese alone. If the Zambian govt does not enforce their laws and allows foreign companies to exploit the Zambian workers, why should foreign companies not take advantage of this laxity?

Because of unemployment, it is easy for foreign industries to exploit the locals. However, there has to be some parity in pay amongst the foreign companies that run the copper mines.

"Recent improvements show that Chinese companies will abide by labor laws when the Zambian government fulfills its responsibility to protect workers' rights," Bekele said. "But while Zambia's mining laws are strong on paper, the government has failed to enforce them."
Extracts from Zambia: Workers Detail Abuse in Chinese-Owned Mines | Human Rights Watch

It all actually is the fault of the Govt of Zambia and the Chinese are merely exploiting this weakness. Notwithstanding, it is seriously affecting the image of China since it is a reflection of the condition of work laws in China and the exploitation that must also be similar in China.

If the work ethics were different in China, then the Chinese companies would not be treating the Zambians in such a poor way wherein the prestige of China is spoilt and the relationship ruined.
 

Ray

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Hostility is such in some quarters that the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, on an eight-country tour of Africa to promote Beijing's trade relationship with the continent, cancelled plans to launch a $200m smelter at a Chinese-owned Zambian copper mine last weekend because of miners' anger at working conditions. He also faced protests from the sacked Mulungushi factory workers.

Mr Hu rejected accusations that China was exploiting Zambian labour and resources. "China is happy to have Zambia as a good friend, good partner and a good brother," he said.

Chinese influx revives colonial fears | Guardian Weekly | guardian.co.uk
 

huaxia rox

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1 willing to do business then sign the deal and do it accordingly and not complain too much....if not willing to then dont sign it coz no 1 can be forced to do legal business i asume.....

2 if chinese boss here is not paying enough money for his zambian staff then staff should sue him according to contracts or local law and the chinese boss should be punished...otherwise its zambian staffs own problem....

3 even its chinese boss's bad not paying enough money zambian staff had no rights to kill him...its very simple....and justice should be bought to all who were involved in the murder case.

4 chinese should do business overseas and on the other hand be careful of issuses like local custom...envirmental issue etc even its not under law or any contract.....this is important in the long run.....

5 when the us and the uk can largely protect their citizens who r doing business overseas what r chinese gov doing?basically nothing.....thats the key point.....the corrupt gov can buy some expensive new sedans but they just wont invest enough in military buildups to fully protect the life of our citizens and our national interests.....nothing can be more sad than that and consequences can now be surely and vividly observed.....
 

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