THE plight of the 400 workers who have been abandoned by their employer in Lusaka deserves the attention of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and other relevant government agencies.
It is unfortunate that the workers seem to have nowhere else to go after the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) which, through the Millennium Project Completion Agency (MPCA-Zambia), engaged the Italian contractor who has left the workers in this predicament.
The contractor, Cooperativa Muratori Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC di Ravenna), was working on the multi-million dollar drainage network project in the capital city.
CMC di Ravenna had over 400 workers who were waiting to be paid their May salaries, leave days and gratuity depending on each one’s contract when the Italian company left Zambia without informing them.
After all their efforts to contact the owners or managers of the foreign company failed the distraught workers turned to MPCA-Zambia, the client organisation.
One of the employees, Godfrey Moomba, said in an interview the workers were engaging MCA so that they could be paid the money.
Mr Moomba said he and the other workers believed that MCA still owed their former employer, CMC di Ravenna, a lot of money for the works they had done.
He said he and the other workers had already been given pay slips by the human resources unit of CMC di Ravenna and that they were just waiting for the money from MCA.
However, MPCA-Zambia, has washed its hands out of the matter saying it had no contract with the workers but with their former employer, CMC di Ravenna.
It has refused to pay them the salary arrears and leave daysthe construction company owed them.
Director of communications John Kunda said the United States funded organisation did not owe CMC di Ravenna Construction Company any money.
Dr Kunda said MPCA-Zambia had paid the Italian company the workers had been working for for all the 98 percent works it had done under the contract.
He said MPCA-Zambia did not have any contract with CMC di Ravenna workers but their employer. “We do not owe them [workers] money, and I want to make it very clear. This is how we operate; when you engage a contractor before the works start they are given advance payments,” he said.
According to Dr Kunda MPCA-Zambia had terminated the contract with CMC di Ravenna for the 98 percent it had done and already paid the company off.
In short the foreign contractor has no business coming back to Zambia. This literally leaves the workers on their own.
This is unfair to the 400 plus Zambians who have already worked for the money they are asking for.
We challenge the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to involve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help the workers.
The government of Italy has an embassy in Zambia and it shouldn’t be too difficult to trace CMC di Ravenna and persuade it to pay the workers. What they are asking for is a mere fraction of the huge amount of money MPCA-Zambia paid it for the 98 percent works it did on the drainage project.
Most of these are men and women have families and the money they are being owed would make a difference.
This is a lesson to the government and its cooperating partners on the dangers of engaging some foreign contractors.