Striking mine workers in copper-rich Katanga province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, are resuming work after state-owned company Gecamines began the process of clearing unpaid wages.

Gecamines came to terms with workers’ union to clear unpaid wages, paving the way to end strike that began last week when workers of Gecamines’ production hub at Kolwezi, near south-east Congo, protested at not being paid for the last three months.

Gecamines CEO Ahmed Kalej Nkand was quoted by Reuters as saying that the company has started paying workers and they are returning to posts.

Congo’s mining union head Jackie Makong said: "To start by just paying our salaries is not enough, they need to do more to pay us what we are owed.

"But we know that to be paid, we need to produce, so we have gone back to work."

Meanwhile, Gecamines announced that it is seeking $160m to reduce its workforce by 6,000 people, which will be paid as retrenchment package.

"But we know that to be paid, we need to produce, so we have gone back to work."

The move by Gecamines, which forms part of its revamping strategy, partially came in the wake of corruption and mismanagement in addition to fall in production due to war.

Nkand was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that Gecamines does not have ‘the necessary funds to pay retrenchment packages’ and this ‘means we continue with them on our payroll; it is quite a difficult situation’.

According to the World Bank, Gecamines has already cut 10,655 jobs under its $43.5m voluntary departure programme during 2003 and 2004.

Makong said Gecamines needed revamping but the union would not allow workers to lose out in the process.

"Gecamines has to restructure, it is a reality. We have many workers who are eligible for retirement. But as trade unionists we cannot accept that (Gecamines) retires these people without giving them money," Makong added.