— Minister of Labour and Social Security Fackson Shamenda has urged the Chinese construction companies to treat workers in a more "humane" way to avoid industrial unrests.
Mr Shamenda was speaking in Itezhi tezhi today when he visited Sino Hydro group of companies which has been contracted by Itezhi Tezhi Power Corporation (ITPC) to construct the US$230 million hydroelectric power station in Itezhi tezhi.
Mr Shamenda said that all Chinese firms should treat workers fairly and respect their religious beliefs by enabling them to attend church services on Sunday or Saturdays.
“Both local Zambian workers and Chinese workers in Zambia should not work like slaves” he said.
The Minister who talked passionately about his labour union days in Chiluba regime said overworking employees is inimical to productivity.
He said that productivity is increased when workers are treated fairly and in a respectable manner.
‘A Happy employee is a productive worker’ Mr Shamenda said.
Mr Shamenda also advised the Chinese firm to employ competent local human resource officers who understand better the culture of Zambia.
The Minister explained that the working culture of Zambians is very different from that of the Chinese and hence the need to harmonise the two.
“We need to harmonise the working culture of the Chinese and blend it with the culture of the Zambians to ensure industrial harmony” Mr Shamenda said.
He said that as a result of different working cultures between the Chinese and Zambians, the country has witnessed industrial conflicts such as the one at the coal mine which led to deaths of some workers.
Mr Shamenda advised the Chinese company not to use their workers as slaves but give them enough time to engage in social activities.
He said that social activities such as recreation for both Chinese and Zambian workers are critical.
The Minister observed that lack of time for Chinese workers to socialize could lead to bad episodes such as the one in the Copperbelt where some Chinese workers defiled young girls.
“In as much as I appreciate the working culture of the Chinese, it is not good for them to confine their workers within work premises without any recreation. Recreation once in a while especially after work hours is important,” Mr Shamenda said.
He said that Chinese Managers should also enjoy some comfort such as leaving in decent accommodation than living in un conducive structures usually at the construction sites.
The Minister who was impressed with infrastructure works at the Itezhi tezhi power station however, expressed concern that some Chinese firms have no officers who can communicate in English for clear understanding between Zambians and Chinese.
Mr Shamenda retaliated that most companies with foreign human resource personnel do not understand the labour laws of the country and should employ local human resource officers.
He also disclosed that his ministry will soon introduce a way of measuring productivity of public service workers.
Meanwhile, Mr Shamenda has commended Sino Hydro for paying their workers above the minimum wage and challenged private companies in the country to match with the government’s minimum wage for public workers of K3, 200 to be implemented in September.
And Sino Hydro group said they will comply with new requirements for employing human resource officers and other Zambian labour law requirements.