20th April 2005
NUM spokesperson Moferefere Lekorotsoana told Mining Weekly Online yesterday afternoon that the union's lawyers have been in consultation with senior counsel and were expecting to launch the application for the interdict today in the Labour Court.
The move follows a breakdown in talks between Harmony and the NUM regarding the retrenchments, which are due to start tomorrow.
NUM general-secretary Gwede Mantashe earlier accused Harmony of deliberately “destroying jobs for purposes of hiding their own management failures”, after the company failed to attend a meeting with the union scheduled for Monday.
“These are the actions of a company, under the leadership of its CEO, that is intent on destroying the industry. This casts a doubt on our initial stance of not wanting to take sides regarding Harmony's hostile takeover bid for Gold Fields. Clearly, if Harmony were to take over Goldfields we should expect nothing else but a total destruction of jobs,” Mantashe commented in a statement.
The union is hoping that the application for an interdict will stall Harmony from issuing retrenchment notices, which the company believes its is legally allowed to do. The gold producer also warned that more jobs could be at risk unless the union stands down from its decision not to allow Harmony to work on Sunday at certain Freegold shafts.
The NUM also said that, should its interdict application fail, it would consider other means of challenging the retrenchments.
Meanwhile, the Solidarity trade union has called on Labour Minister Membatisi Mdladlana to visit the Free State goldfields to inspect conditions in this region.
Solidarity spokesperson Dirk Hermann said the union would like to show the minister the reality of the retrenchment crisis unfolding at gold-mines in the Free State.
“We should also like to discuss with the minister ways in which the crisis may be managed,” Hermann added.
He stated that these developments come at the end of a battle that has raged for 18 months and that will end this week with the retrenchment of the 4 900 workers at Harmony, in addition to some 8 000 Harmony workers who were laid off in 2004.
“Solidarity has no further legal recourse on behalf of its members since Harmony had followed the correct retrenchment procedures. Solidarity has fought the retrenchments to the bitter end. The trade union does not agree with Harmony's rationale for the retrenchments and has launched a widespread public campaign to warn the public and opinion makers against the retrenchment crisis that is threatening our country,” argued Hermann.
The union has appointed a commission of enquiry to investigate the retrenchment situation in South Africa, and commission warned that as many as 20 000 workers may lose their jobs in the next three months.
Edited by: Martin Czernowalow