JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Monday called for the resignation of Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, citing a complete breakdown in relations.
Speaking at a press briefing to discuss recent announcements by AngloGold Ashanti and Bokoni Platinum Mine that they will be retrenching 8 500 and 2 651 workers respectively, the union stated that the relationship between itself and the Minister was “virtually nonexistent”.
NUM president Piet Matosa said the union had had good relations with all previous Ministers responsible for the mining industry and was “shocked and disappointed” that Zwane had allowed the relationship to deteriorate. He added that the union would soon approach President Jacob Zuma to request that he remove the Minister from his position.
Meanwhile, NUM general secretary David Sipunzi called on the African National Congress- (ANC-) led government to intervene to prevent job losses in the mining industry.
“The ANC must come out and denounce the continued [mass job shedding],” he declared.
Further, he highlighted that, at Bokoni, the retrenchment numbers excluded over 3 000 contract workers who would also lose their jobs through the retrenchment process, thereby raising the total number to over 5 000 people who would be losing their jobs.
NUM noted that the South African mining sector had shed more than 80 000 jobs over the past five years. Sipunzi said the reality was that the mining sector was guilty of focusing on profit maximisation and increased mechanisation of the sector, without paying attention to job security and the reskilling of the workers who were losing their jobs.
In response to the NUM’s statements, the Chamber of Mines (CoM) noted that it shared the concerns of the union about job losses in the mining industry.
It pointed out that the domestic mining industry remains under economic and financial pressure, noting that the industry had made an accumulative net loss of about R50-billion between 2014 and 2016.
“Increasing cost pressures such as the steep increase in the price of electricity, increased labour costs and the increased cost of materials such as steel, combined with the continued decline in productivity for various reasons, including the inappropriate application of Section 54 stoppages have served to undermine the sector.
“Under these circumstance, mining companies have been compelled to restructure to ensure their survival,” the CoM said.
It further noted that the continued regulatory uncertainty and the unilateral imposition of the Department of Mineral Resources’ Mining Charter 3 have served to deter investment in the sector, and will further raise costs in the mining sector through direct and hidden levies, further jeopardising current operations and the viability of new ones.
“As many as 100 000 direct and 200 000 indirect jobs could be at risk in the short to medium term,” it warned.
“Our industry’s future and its ability to continue to provide employment and benefits to employees, depends on the ability of its stakeholders (government, labour and mining companies) to actively consult each other and work together to create conducive policy, [and a] legislative and operating environment that facilitates transformation and realises the economic potential of the mining sector for the benefit of all South Africans,” commented CoM CEO Roger Baxter.
JOB SUMMIT CALL
Meanwhile, the NUM believes there is an “urgent need” for a multistakeholder-led job summit to be held to establish a plan to deal with the critical issue of job losses.
Sipunzi said the union was also calling on companies to rethink their positions with regard to retrenchments. “They must create opportunities for job creation, rather than maximising profits at the expense of poor mineworkers who earn poverty wages.”
He elaborated that research indicated that each mining job supported around ten people, hence thousands of families would be affected by these job losses.
Sipunzi further emphasised that the planned retrenchments would create more unemployment, increase poverty in mining communities and result in the economic collapse of these towns, eventually turning them into “ghost towns without hope and human dignity”.
Moreover, the NUM noted that the divide between itself and some mining companies was growing. Sipunzi said that these companies regarded the NUM as an enemy rather than a stakeholder.
“While the government and the CoM battle in and out of courts, it is the workers who will ultimately suffer the most,” he lamented.
Sipunzi said the union would oppose the impending retrenchments “tooth and nail” by ensuring all existing platforms of dialogue between parties are exhausted to ensure jobs are saved and the mining industry returns to stability.