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Gecamines Kinshasa, Congo, Workers Strike Over Pay Delays

Reuters, in DAMN <damn@tao.ca>, Monday 26 April 1999

Kinshasa (Reuters 22 April 1999) -- All 600 Kinshasa-based employees of Congolese mining giant Gecamines went on strike on Thursday over unpaid wages, strikers and mines ministry officials said.

The strikers said they had not been paid for nine months and demanded the departure of Billy Rautenbach, Zimbabwean chairman of the Generale des Carrieres et des Mines (Gecamines), whom they blamed for the delays.

"All 600 employees are on strike. The management have also gone on strike, under pressure from the workers," Gaston Bonheur, a mines ministry official, told Reuters. "They demand the removal of Mr Rautenbach because since he took over management, salaries have not been paid."

Hundreds of striking employees thronged the steps of Gecamines headquarters in downtown Kinshasa, where they had placed a cardboard coffin and headstone with the inscription "RIP Billy Rautenbach."

"We are striking in protest against nine months of salary arrears, and we demand the resignation of Billy Rautenbach. We will not go back to work until he resigns," one striker said.

Strikers also said they were protesting against a decision by Rautenbach to cut the workforce.

Gecamines, which mines copper and cobalt, was the mainstay of the former Zaire's economy but decades of mismanagement and neglect have slashed output.

President Laurent Kabila hired Rautenbach, a relative unknown in the mining world, to run Gecamines in mid-October.

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