According to local sources familiar with the dispute, the workers are demonstrating over what they claim are “violations of labour law” by the plant’s Nigerian management.
Among the demands sought by the striking workers are authority to form a union, pensionable jobs, permanent full-time status as opposed to casualisation, K5000 across the board, and improvement of safety and working conditions. In particular, the workers are singling out Dangote Zambia country manager Mr Desmond Maharaj, whom they claim has been mistreating them.
In recent months, declining production at Dangote has reportedly led the company to place many workers on furlough. But some workers on strike complain that the labour squeeze is just being used to cut prices against the competition.
“The conditions are very bad, and we will not let them abuse us like this,” said worker, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity. “Dangote has managed to keep the price of cement low because he is exploiting us Zambian workers. They are ignoring labour laws and the ministry must act to defend us.”
Dangote Cement Zambia Limited is a new player in the industry, beginning production late last year. Owned by the Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote – listed by Forbes as the richest man in Africa with a net worth of $16.8 billion – the $400 million Copperbelt plant is capable of producing 1.5 million tons of cement a year.