III. Hours and Overtime
Across Zambia’s Copperbelt, miners in the Chinese-owned companies work under difficult conditions for very long hours. At one extreme, some miners at Sino Metals described working a 78-hour week, while others described working 365 days a year without a day off. The standard Zambian work week, followed by other copper mining companies, is six days of eight hours each day. And those working the extended hours for the Chinese mining companies often do not receive overtime, or receive far less than they are entitled by law.
Excessive Working Hours at Sino Metals, CCS
Workers in the Chinese copper processing operations, Sino Metals and Chambishi Copper Smelter (CCS), often work far longer hours than the 48-hour week considered “normal” under Zambian law. This work generally takes place in demanding conditions with harmful chemicals, fumes, and dust. Most miners at Sino Metals and CCS work 12-hour shifts—in contrast to the eight-hour shifts that are standard in every other copper mining and processing operation in Zambia. Miners in certain departments at Sino Metals must work 365 days a year, or be docked pay for any absence. These conditions, particularly in the mining context, are likely to put workers at greater risk of injury.
A high-level official for the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW) contrasted the hours at the Chinese copper mining operations to other international companies in Zambia:
Some workers in Chinese mines are forced to work 12 hours or more a day for six days a week. Compare this to KCM [Konkola Copper Mines], where in the open pit they have four shifts and elsewhere they have three. So people work four days, with three days off; or five days, with two days off. And only eight hour shifts. It’s the same at Mopani…. The Chinese want people to work seven days a week, and longer hours. It’s one of the most common complaints we receive, but the Chinese refuse to change.
At Sino Metals, miners in the crusher department and truck drivers—who travel from the Chambishi plant to an area outside of Chingola where they load the low-grade copper that the company processes—work 365 days a year. One driver told Human Rights Watch about the difficulty of the long hours and the penalties that the company imposes for missing a single day of work:
My biggest problem is that I’ve been working for 365 days without [a day] off…. I start every day at 6:30 a.m. and go until 18 hours Monday through Friday, with a one-hour break. On Saturday, I knock off at 3:30 p.m.; on Sunday, at noon.… It gets very tiring, I never see my family. We don’t understand why we can’t have normal hours like the other companies on the Copperbelt.
If you’re absent for even one day, because you’re tired, because you have other responsibilities to your family, they deduct from your basic pay. Far more than what one day’s pay should be. If you’re absent for two days, your pay goes way down. Even your housing allowance will go down.
Human Rights Watch interviewed four other miners employed by Sino Metals who work 365 days a year, and each of them said that, in combination with the low pay, the long hours were the most pressing problem that they faced.
Even those at Sino Metals who do not work 365 days voiced complaints about their working hours. Miners that work in production departments at Sino Metals, including fork-life operators, those in leaching, and those in the Solvent Extraction and Electrowinning (SX/EW) plants, routinely work five 12-hour shifts each week and a sixth 18-hour shift when they change from day or night shift. Many of these individuals work with harmful chemicals, in extreme heat, or with heavy machinery. A miner in the leach pad, where people work with acid, explained:
It’s difficult to handles these hours. We work 12 hours a day, five days, and 18 hours on the day of the change shift. It’s very tiring. During the week, we work from 6 to 6, either day shift or night shift. And then yesterday we worked from 6 p.m. until 12 [noon] today, an 18 hour shift; the group after us will work from 12 today until 6 [a.m.] tomorrow…. And we never get a break; they say it’s a continuous operation, so no break. They say the pipes would break because of the copper solution if we took a break. It’s very tough. If we eat, we have to while we work, or have a friend cover for a few minutes. There are times where you’re just so tired. And after transport to and from work, it’s 14 hours at least. My life is only my work here.
Overtime is supposed to be four hours every day. But it doesn’t make sense in terms of the pay.… Last month I received less than 200,000 [Kwacha, or $42] for overtime. Yet I put in 30 hours of overtime every week! They don’t tell us how they calculate this, they refuse…. Our hours are too long for the pay we receive.
Many workers complained about the lack of breaks over the long hours. An operator in the SX/EW plant said:
Sometimes we’ll share some bread that someone has brought in, eating a little while we work. But you can’t step away for lunch—they say we’re a continuous process. By the end of the day, we’re so tired. We look at our brothers in other mines [who work eight-hour shifts] and wonder what’s different with these Chinese.
Several miners at Sino Metals said that the only positive aspect of the long shift was that they received a little overtime pay to supplement their salaries, which helped them to better make ends meet. However, they all, like the leach pad worker quoted above, expressed dismay at the overtime pay—which was generally around 200,000 Kwacha ($42) for the month. As discussed below, this overtime appears to fall short of the requirements under Zambian labor law.
In response to a Human Rights Watch letter addressing concerns, CNMC said Sino Metals “considers it untrue” that “some departments force workers to work” 365 days without an off day, although provided no further detail. Multiple miners from specific departments, as noted above, told Human Rights Watch that they had no days off. CNMC’s letter also said that the company had engaged the union about ending the 12-hour workday during the collective bargaining negotiations at the end of 2010. The letter stated that Sino Metals “completely in agreement that shift lengths shall be implemented in line with its workers’ wishes,” and pointed to a clause in the most recent collective agreement that says, “The Union in consultation with its members will prescribe to management measures that will govern the shift change procedures.” The letter faulted the union for not yet replying. While notable that Sino Metals is interested in engaging the union on shift issues, “shift change” commonly signifies the changeover from day shift to night shift (and vice versa), rather than the hour length of an individual shift. This provision, while relevant to concerns about the once weekly 18-hour shift as workers change shifts, does not address concerns about the daily 12-hour shift. CNMC did specify in its letter to Human Rights Watch that it was open to negotiations “as soon as possible” regarding the “shift lengths that the workers wish to have.” Miners, in interviews with Human Rights Watch, indicated their strong preference for an eight-hour shift—whether blame for stalled negotiations rests with the union or with Sino Metals management.
Most miners at the Chambishi Copper Smelter (CCS) also work 12-hour shifts, though, in contrast to Sino Metals, generally only for 20 days a month. The normal routine for someone in a CCS production department is two days on the day shift, two days on the night shift, and two days off for every six days. The dozen CCS workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch all identified the 12-hour shift as a hardship.
A miner in CCS’s hot metal department, a part of the smelting operation where workers are often in contact with extreme heat, raised basic health concerns regarding the long shifts. He told Human Rights Watch: “The 12-hour shift is a very bad system. We need eight-hour shifts so that we can have enough rest. For 12 hours, all we get are three [bread] buns and a small thing of milk. We need energy to work, we’re working in the hot metal department, yet this is it. No break, no food.”
Venus Seti, the assistant labor commissioner in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, told Human Rights Watch that, as unionized workers, those in the copper industry were free to negotiate terms that would otherwise violate Zambian labor law. He said that the rigid labor protections were primarily for non-unionized workers, though the Ministry of Labour could choose to not approve a collective bargaining agreement if the “conditions of service disadvantage the worker.” He said he could not comment specifically on the question of hours at CCS and Sino Metals, though the ministry has approved agreements with these provisions every year.
When asked about complaints over the 12-hour shift, Godwin Beene, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, told Human Rights Watch: “Let me tell you, for people who complain. I once worked underground nine straight nights from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.—and I enjoyed it.”
Evan Mutali, the assistant human resources manager at CCS, defended his company’s 12-hour shifts as necessary for the mining operations:
The issue of hours was brought up during the last collective bargaining agreement. The 12-hour shift will continue, as it’s required for our smelter’s operations [that] need to be maintained for 12 hours. If you did three shifts, the smelter would fail because of the shift change. So the shifts must be 12 hours, because of the method and technology involved. Once the copper is put in the converters, it must go through a long process. If people knock off during the cycle, the whole thing will collapse…. This is different from other smelters, where they use fire and coal. We use oxygen, so it’s difficult. The labor law says 48 hours, but production is continuous.
In its letter to Human Rights Watch, CNMC did not claim that a 12-hour shift was necessary at the CCS plant, but that it was better both for productivity and from the workers’ perspective:
This model for shift work is relatively better than that of eight-hour shifts in that: work and non-work hours are concentrated into longer blocks, thereby reducing the number of shifts and increasing stability in production; at the same time, workers can reduce the number of times they travel to and from work each month, thus reducing the amount of time spent on travelling for work, which then effectively increases the amount of time workers have for themselves. 
Whether or not the 12-hour shift is necessary or better for its operations, its standard use along with the weekly 18-hour shift at Sino Metals, is both unique in Zambia’s copper industry and raises safety concerns. Many of the workers who spoke to Human Rights Watch said they believed the long hours contributed to avoidable accidents. According to a miner at CCS, “Accidents happen because people are stressed from the long hours—they are tired, so they are not looking after their safety.”
In its response, CNMC denied the safety concerns, saying that “research and investigation by relevant foreign agencies (mainly Australia copper companies and other relevant research departments) have shown that the impact [of a 12-hour shift on workers’ mental and physical health] is not significant.”
ILO Recommendation 183 states that:
[C]onsultations provided for by Article 3 of the Convention [ILO No. 176] should include consultations with the most representative organizations of employers and workers on the effect of the length of working hours, night work and shift work on workers’ safety and health. After such consultations, the Member should take the necessary measures in relation to working time and, in particular, to maximum daily working hours and minimum daily rest periods.
ICESCR provides that states “recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular …. [r]est, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”
As noted, Zambian labor law recognizes a 48-hour work week as standard. Any weekly work beyond 48 hours is to be paid at one and a half times the employee’s hourly pay. In addition, work on public holidays or Sundays, “where a Sunday does not form a part of the normal working week,” should be paid double. Despite these provisions, a union representative and miners from NFCA, Sino Metals, and CCS all identified consistent disputes over overtime pay. At NFCA, miners told Human Rights Watch that overtime was almost never paid, even when they were required to work beyond the standard 48-hour week there (see textbox on NFCA, below). At Sino Metals, as seen in accounts above, miners complained that they received extremely small overtime pay despite working as many as 30 overtime hours each week, public holidays, and Sundays. In its response, CNMC said that all of its companies paid overtime. Regarding Sino Metals and NFCA, it did not specify the precise overtime pay percentage. At CCS, it said it was 1.5 times the normal pay; at China Luanshya Mine, two times normal pay.
In contrast to the hours of work at the Chinese-run copper mining operations, miners at KCM, Mopani, and Kansanshi all said that their standard work week is between 40 and 48 hours. The Canadian-owned Kansanshi previously had a 12-hour shift at its processing plant but agreed with the unions to reduce to an eight -hour shift during their 2011 collective bargaining agreement. Eight-hour shifts are likewise standard at the other copper mining companies, including KCM and Mopani, where three shifts are employed in departments that the companies deem necessary to operate continuously.
On overtime, a few miners from other multinationals reported issues, though, in contrast to the Chinese-run operations, few reported problems and even those who complained often deemed it a relatively minor problem. While several miners at KCM said they always received overtime pay for work beyond 48 hours, two miners said that their bosses often told them just to take a day off, rather than receive overtime pay—which they found to be unfair, as they preferred to work and receive the overtime pay. At Kansanshi, miners both at the mining site and the processing plant reported no problems with overtime payment, though one miner expressed frustration that Sunday was paid as a normal day. At Mopani, miners who spoke to Human Rights Watch all said that they received overtime pay so long as the work was authorized. However, one miner explained that at times the Zambian managers appear to skirt the rules and not report employees’ overtime:
Sometimes, the foreman asks us to work over, to work 12 hours. And there is a problem of authorized versus unauthorized overtime. When it’s reported to the pay office that we’re to work overtime, we have no issues, it’s paid. But sometimes the boss doesn’t put our overtime in at the pay office. The blame isn’t on the pay office, it’s on the direct manager. So it’s not checked—authorized—and then it’s not paid.
A union representative told Human Rights Watch that this issue had been taken up with higher-level management, and that the main issue now was sensitizing workers to ensure that authorization is given before overtime work is agreed to and undertaken.
Improvements at NFCA, except for Double Shift Underground
Underground miners at NFCA, the Chinese-owned copper mine in Chambishi, told Human Rights Watch that during the first years after the mine became operational in 2003, they routinely worked 12-hour shifts underground. After pressure from miners and the unions—given the danger involved in working underground—NFCA established an 8-hour standard workday, with many of the underground operations splitting into morning, afternoon, and night shifts. Although slow in coming, this reform shows that Chinese management in the copper mines can be responsive to labor concerns.
However, this change did not end the practice of forcing miners to work a double shift—up to 16 hours—underground, often without overtime pay or sufficient rest to make up for the double time.
An electrician at NFCA described being forced to work a second shift without overtime whenever there were breakdowns or other problems at the plant:
Normally, our hours are considered to be eight hours a day, six days a week. But I often work 10 hours a day, six days a week, without overtime. The Chinese are very reluctant to pay overtime…. And some days, there may be a breakdown at 3:30 p.m, right as I’m knocking off. If the next person on shift isn’t there, I’m told to go repair it, even though it’s time to knock off. The Chinese boss will say, “You’ll lose your job if you don’t go.” So what choice do I have? I’m still not paid overtime even when this happens…. Sometimes I’ll be knocking off late, at 5 p.m., and when I get to the surface, I’ll find out that there’s a problem underground. I’m sent right back down.
Even when it is not an emergency situation, but simply normal production, Chinese bosses have ordered underground miners to work double shifts when their counterpart in the next shift does not report for work. A load operator at NFCA described an experience to Human Rights Watch that he said was repeated frequently:
They treat us very badly. I’m in the day shift [7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.], and if a person from the afternoon shift [3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.] doesn’t come, they say that I have to do a double shift. We don’t get a break, just a couple buns [of bread] and back underground for another eight hours…. Sixteen hours underground is not easy. And then I don’t even get time off for performing double duty. If I don’t make it to my day shift the next day, they’ll mark me absent, and I’ll lose pay. If I refuse to do the double shift, they’ll fire me. The Chinese boss says so…. And I don’t get overtime even for this double shift, they view it as just a standard day of work. They don’t give overtime.
Several NFCA miners said they had suffered injuries from workplace accidents during the second shift, blaming the accidents in part on their exhaustion.
Although certain circumstances, including breakdowns and other emergencies in which a suitable shift replacement is not available, might necessitate an occasional double shift, NFCA appears to have made it the standard response to any absence; rather than an emergency, it is a manner to ensure that production does not slip at all. The government’s failure is even more pronounced when NFCA bosses deny miners the ability to rest the day after a double shift—requiring them, in practice, to work 24 hours underground in a 32-hour period, even in the absence of an emergency.
In response, CNMC said:
Due to safety needs, workers charged with key responsibilities related to underground water discharge, power supplies, and hoisting systems are required to hand over their task to workers in the next shift…. This is a common practice in the mining industry to protect lives and safety in production. Should workers from the next shift be unable to take over in time, the worker who takes that shift and works overtime will be given overtime wages.
Human Rights Watch recognizes that there may be specific circumstances that necessitate a double shift to ensure safety. However, as described by the miners, the practice appears to have been abused at times to include even when alternative arrangements could be made. Moreover, all those interviewed who had worked a double shift denied receiving overtime for the extra hours.
While Zambia is not a state party, ILO Convention No. 1, the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, is informative. Article 3 states: “The limit of  hours of work … may be exceeded in case of accident, actual or threatened, or in case of urgent work to be done to machinery or plant, or in case of ‘force majeure’, but only so far as may be necessary to avoid serious interference with the ordinary working of the undertaking.
 Republic of Zambia, Chapter 276: The Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment Act, No. 25 of 1982, as amended by Act No. 13 of 1994, art. 3 (“The normal weekly hours of work for any employee shall not exceed forty-eight hours.”).
 Human Rights Watch interview with NUMAW national union official, Kitwe, November 7, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with driver B at Sino Metals, Chambishi, July 17, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with leach pad operator A at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner A at SX/EW plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 13, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with miner A in the tailings department at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010; with miner C at SX/EW plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 13, 2011; and with leach pad operator A at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner C in the electrical furnace at CCS, Kitwe, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Venus Seti, assistant labor commissioner in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Lusaka, July 18, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Godwin Beene, Ministry of Mines, Lusaka, July 18, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Evan Mutali, assistant HR manager at CCS, Chambishi, July 12, 2011. Human Rights Watch presented the claim to union officials, Zambian economists who specialize in the copper mining industry, and other Zambian copper mining experts, and they all disagreed with the contention that a 12-hour shift was necessary. They all said that there should not be a problem in utilizing a three-shift system, as is standard in copper smelters run by other multinationals. Human Rights Watch interviews, Kitwe and Lusaka, July 2011.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Smelting and processing operations at Konkola Copper Mines, Mopani Copper Mines, and Kansanshi operate on an 8-hour workday, with three work shifts, as discussed below.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner A in the water treatment plant at CCS, Kitwe, November 6, 2010.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 ILO Recommendation No. 183: Safety and Health in Mines Recommendation, June 22, 1995, provision 3(2).
 ICESCR, art. 7.
 Republic of Zambia, Chapter 276: The Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment Act, art. 4(1). Hourly pay is determined by dividing the employee’s monthly basic wages by 208 hours. Ibid., art. 4(3).
 Republic of Zambia, Chapter 276: The Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment Act, art. 4(2).
 A miner from China Luanshya Mine, by contrast, told Human Rights Watch: “If you work overtime, you are properly paid. We had some problems with this when the Chinese first came on, but it wasn’t actually the Chinese who were the problem. The problem was the [Zambian] managers. They would demand that we work over, but then not let us get it approved formally. And then we would be told that since it wasn’t formally approved, we couldn’t be paid for it. That’s CLM’s rule, that overtime must be approved for it to be paid. We complained about the lack of payment, and the process has been sorted out.” Human Rights Watch interview with surface electrician B at CLM, Luanshya, November 10, 2010.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with pump operator underground at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010; and with artisan technician in the engineering department at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with miners at Kansanshi mining, Solwezi, November 11-12, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with mechanic in the engineering department at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with union representative at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010.
 For example, Human Rights Watch interview with underground repair technician at NFCA, employed since 2004, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with electrician A at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground load operator A at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011. Another worker stated similarly, “Sometimes I am forced to work a double shift, if the evening person doesn’t show or is sick. And yet they only count one shift, I’m not given overtime. If I even have one absent, my salary goes from 1.2 million down to 900,000. How is this fair?” Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer operator B at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with mine truck operator B at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011; and with underground drill operator C at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 ILO Convention No. 1: Convention Limiting the Hours of Work in Industrial Undertakings to Eight in the Day and Forty-eight in the Week, November 28, 1919, entered into force June 13, 1921, art. 3.