LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia warned on Wednesday it viewed any moves by mining companies to lay off workers without consulting the government as a violation of their investment licences.
President Michael Sata, a populist swept to power two years ago on an activist platform to defend workers' rights, has been taking a hard line with mining houses and other foreign investors who have tried to trim their work forces.
These include Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), the biggest private sector employer in the country owned by Vedanta Resources, and South African retailer Shoprite.
"It has been observed that some investors in some mining companies have found it necessary to down size their workforce each time they are faced with operational challenges," the government of Africa's top copper producer said in a statement.
"Government views such actions as a violation of, and not within the spirit of the investment licence."
The government added that it was "unwarranted, unfortunate and unacceptable" for mining companies to cut jobs before consulting the government and other stakeholders.
The statement comes days after Lusaka revoked the work permit of the chief executive of KCM following a row over job cuts.
The government last month threatened to shut Shoprite stores after the South African company fired workers who went on strike over pay. Shoprite, Africa's biggest retailer, subsequently backtracked on the sackings.
Mining companies in Zambia include First Quantum Mineral, Glencore International, Vale and China's Jinchuan.