January 3, 2007

Top textile firm temporarily closed

Hundreds of Zambian workers face losing their wages after a decision to close the country's largest textile firm. Huge losses led Zambia China Mulungushi (ZCMT), run by Chinese firm Quingdao Textile, to shut up shop temporarily while searching for new investment. Some 700 workers are on unpaid leave until 31 March, leaving only 300 staff, said managing director Che Ming. Workers protested the decision, according to state radio reports. The management of the firm told workers in a memo that it regretted the decision to leave "only a skeleton staff of 300 to man vital installations at the plant".
Qingdao Textile Corporation of China owns a 66% stake and the firm is run by Chinese management. Zambia's government owns the rest. The textile firm, which lies about 100 kilometres north of the capital Lusaka, owes some $600,000 to suppliers. It is not the first time the firm has faced financial difficulties. The company opened in 1983 and was run by Zambia's government on the basis of a loan from China. But it closed down in 1987 after operational problems, after which the Chinese managers took a majority share in the firm. (Rts)

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