“I will be smiling all the way to Kitwe,” says Brenda Mufika, the Copperbelt Regional Coordinator, of the Mine Workers Union of Zambia (MUZ), after signing a recognition agreement with Smech Engineering Services in the Sinazongwe District of the Southern Province of Zambia on 12 July.
Sinazongwe is 685 km from Kitwe, where IndustriALL Global Union affiliate MUZ is based, and about 12 hours’ drive by road but this is not a deterrent to recruiting more workers. MUZ has unionized 127 workers out of 150 at Smech Engineering, which is subcontracted to maintain the Maamba coal thermal power station that produces 300 megawatts of electricity into the Zambian national grid.
The recruitment is part of the activities for IndustriALL’s union building project in Zambia. Besides Zambia, the union building project includes Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe.
Formed in 1957, MUZ is amongst the oldest unions in Zambia and recently held its 14th national congress under the theme: “Growth, retention, unity and quality service to member”. It has 15,343 members from the mining sector of whom 5,094 are precarious workers with no permanent contracts. Nationally, it is affiliated to the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions.
Says Tendai Makanza, IndustriALL regional officer for Sub Saharan Africa:
“The strength of the union comes from its members which is why it is important to continue with efforts to increase numbers. We applaud efforts by MUZ who are going the extra mile to recruit members.”
The Zambian economy is anchored on mining, wholesale and retail trade, construction and manufacturing. Recently, it was affected by low copper prices and electricity supply shortages. Mining has also spread from the Copperbelt Province to other provinces including the North Western Province where it is said to be low cost. Nevertheless, plans are underway to increase production at some old mines including Mopani’s copper and cobalt mines in Kitwe and Mufulira where MUZ has organized many workers and is the majority union.
The government of Zambia is hoping to turn the economy around through an economic recovery “Zambia Plus” programme aimed at improving domestic resource mobilization, fiscal governance, accountability and transparency, restoring budget credibility and raising confidence in the private sector. The Industrialization Strategy (2013) aims to create more jobs and diversify the economy and thus reduce the risk caused by over reliance on mining.
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