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Zambians back to work in Chinese copper smelter after strike
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10:40, March 07, 2008

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More than 100 Zambians resumed work Thursday at a Chinese-owned smelter after a two-day strike, the company said.

"Since Thursday morning, 103 Zambian construction workers have reported to the management. All of them are now working at the construction site," Sun Chuanqi, public relations officer of the Chinese Copper Smelter, told Xinhua on the phone.

More than 400 Zambian workers at the smelter went on strike earlier this week demanding a pay rise.

The strike turned violent Tuesday morning after local employees started throwing stones at Chinese workers amid rumors that the management of the factory was reluctant to grant a wage hike.

Two Chinese were slightly injured in the clash, which forced the Chinese management to temporarily shut down the smelter.

But Sun dismissed reports that the factory fired all Zambian workers, saying most of the Zambian workers are expected back to work this week after re-registration with the management.

It was reported that the factory distributed letters of dismissal to local employees Wednesday. But the factory now claims that the workers were merely asked to stop work temporarily and explain their grievances in writing to the management within three days.

Sun regretted the "misinterpretation" of the decision, saying it was made after consultations with union and government officials.

"The idea to ask them away from work was meant to protect the company's property which some of them wanted to damage and to give time for the employees to communicate with the management directly. It is not that we have fired them," Sun said.

"Our message to the workers still remains the same: please comeback to work," Sun said.

Negotiations on improving conditions will go ahead with the unions and the management is committed to talks, he added.

Source: Xinhua

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