UNIONISED workers at Chibuluma Copper Mine have proposed a 40 per cent pay rise next year, barely eight months after their wages were increased by 17 per cent, says a senior company official.

Jackson Sikamo, the company's metallurgical and environment manager, said the unionised workers who are proposing a 40 per cent pay rise next year get an average salary of about K4 million.

"We will be negotiating this proposal but if it falls through, it may affect most of our programmes, especially the expansion of the mine because the wage bill alone constitutes 32 per cent of our total operation costs," he said in an interview.

Sikamo said the wage bill was a critical factor for the company's operations, adding that every pay rise granted directly impacts significantly on the company's cost of mining the copper.
Chibuluma copper mine, which is owned by China's Jinchuan, in March this year agreed to a 17 per cent pay rise to its more than 500 workers, almost triple the country's inflation rate.

Most mining firms in the country granted pay increases to their workers this year after President Michael Sata, who assumed office last year with promises to spread the benefits of Zambia's mineral wealth, asked labour unions to keep salary demands close to inflation, which slowed to 6.0 per cent in February.
He also told Cabinet ministers not to interfere in salary negotiations, saying that could scare foreigners looking to invest in Africa's biggest copper producer.

Glencore International Plc's Mopani Copper Mines agreed to a 17 per cent pay rise with unions in February and Konkola Copper Mines which is majority owned by London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc, has awarded a similar pay increase to its workers.