Weak Kwacha Prompts Layoffs at Lafarge Cement

By IAfrica
In Zambia
Aug 18th, 2014

The LaFarge Cement company is pondering laying off some 30% of its workforce of 670 employees, according to a memo circulated by a group of unionised workers.

Lafarge Cement, which maintains facilities in Ndola and Lusaka, has allegedly not yet paid its unionised workers a promised salary increase, according to the memo. Instead of increasing these wages, last week Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Rigaux announced the layoffs, the employees say.

“The old and tired Minister of Labor has always turned a blind eye and deaf ears to our cries,” the employees say, referring to Labour and Social Security Minister Fackson Shamenda.

“We are appealing to the Government to intervene on our behalf so that we are paid our salary increment, and also to find out why they are pruning staff when they have just made a profit of K270 million rebased between January and December,” the employees say.

The workers also allege mistreatment by management, and say that Lafarge sold most of its shares to Holcim Cement because they are “scared” of competing with Dangote.

“The CEO takes advantage of the greediness and selfishness of our own Zambian managers to exploit us,” the workers complain. “Most Zambian managers are destroying their fellow citizens by protecting the greediness of these foreign investors. (…) They [the management] make billions but they treat the employees poorly.”

According to a sales report from Lafarge dated 12 August 2014, Mr. Rigaux announced that “The recent trend in our costs though is not favourable, partly as a result of negative currency impact. We must take action to contain our costs and ensure the sustainability of our business, including the review of our headcount. As we are entering the active phase of our capacity expansion projects both in Ndola and Chilanga and new competition is emerging, we must be fully mobilized to better serve our customers and maintain our undisputed leadership, including our cost leadership.”

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