Across the world

Across the world, conditions of work play an important role in shaping the quality of life of workers and their families. However, the character of effects depends on a vector of interlinkages and interactions between the workers’ conditions of work and the prevailing socio-economic environment. Using secondary data and the Wage Indicator Foundation Database, the paper addresses the question of how working conditions in Zambia’s copper mining industry relate with the cost of living for workers in order to understand what would constitute appropriate trade union strategies and actions for improved workers’ conditions.
On this basis, the paper presents a quick investigation of this question for the mining sector in Zambia – providing a somewhat broader basis for developing trade union strategies and actions. The paper is organised into four sections. The first section introduces the rationale of the paper. The second provides a country context and labour legislation. The third section analyses the relationship between working and living conditions of mine workers and typical families. Section four provides a conclusion and recommendations drawn from the paper’s discussion.
2. Country Context and Labour Legislation
Country Context
Zambia is a landlocked republic situated in south-central Africa, with a surface area of 752,612 square kilometres. The 2015 Living Conditions Monitoring Survey (LCMS) results show that the population of Zambia was estimated at 15.5 million in 2015. The population is mainly concentrated in rural areas at 58.2 percent compared to 41.8 percent in urban areas. In the period 2005-2015, the economy grew at an annual average of about 7.5 per cent, largely due to the copper price boom (World Development Indictors, 2016). This growth rate was marginally above the Sub – Saharan average of 5 per cent, resulting in an economy with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at market prices (constant 2010 USD) of USD26.2 billion in 2015. Economic growth outlook remains strong as the economy is projected to grow at 7.5 per cent per year up to 2017 (World Bank, 2015).
However, despite decent economic growth, poverty remains the greatest challenge to national development. The proportion of the population living below the poverty line was 54.4 per cent in 2015. Poverty is predominantly a rural phenomenon with poverty levels at 76.6 percent compared to 23.4 percent in urban areas. Copperbelt province, the home of Zambia’s copper mining industry is largely an urbanised region with a poverty incidence of 30.8 percent while the North-Western province – the ‘new copper belt’ in which recent greenfield mine investments have been concentrated remains largely a rural region with a poverty incidence of 66.4 percent ( CSO, 2016).
Labour legislative framework in the mining sector
Legislation governing the rights and obligations of employers and employees in the mining sector in Zambia is mainly contained in the Industrial and Labour Relations Act, Chapter 269 of the Laws of Zambia. The Act provides for the conduct of industrial relations, the recognition and administration of workers and employers’ organisations and the registration and administration of dispute settlement and consultative machinery. Legislation governing employment contracts and procedures and conditions of work are mainly contained in the Employment Act, Chapter 268 of the Laws of Zambia. The Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment Act, Chapter 276 of the Laws of Zambia also applies to the mining sector in Zambia, particularly in those areas which are outside the scope of collective bargaining or where trade unions do not exist or technically where the bargaining unit fails to agree on a particular issue. Under this Act, the Minister of Labour is empowered to make regulations and orders with respect to minimum wages and conditions of work. Mining activities are regulated by the Mines and Minerals Act, Chapter 213 of the Laws of Zambia. Matters of occupational health and safety matters are regulated largely under the Factories Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 36 0f 2010.