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business|coal|construction|iron-ore|logistics|mining|platinum|operations

Unions express dismay over mining sector retrenchments

An image showing part of Sibanye-Stillwater's Marikana operation

Sibanye-Stillwater Platinum recently finished a retrenchment exercise at its Rustenburg and Marikana operations

20th February 2024

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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Trade unions the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have expressed their dissatisfaction with the plans announced by various mining firms to restructure their businesses and potentially retrench hundreds or thousands of workers and contractors.

AMCU says neoliberal policies are the reason for these developments.

“Government has already agreed with the retrenchments and the President merely asked for the mines to delay this until after the national elections. However, companies are not sticking to that.

“Section 189 was designed for companies to retrench if there is not enough profit, and that is why AMCU has called for the Labour Relations Act to be amended, especially for mines, as minerals are owned by the people, and not by individuals,” says AMCU general secretary Jeff Mphahlele.

Recent Section 189 notices include those from Anglo American Platinum, Seriti Coal and Siyanda Bakgatla Platinum mine, AMCU points out, adding that Sibanye-Stillwater Platinum also recently finished a retrenchment exercise at its Rustenburg and Marikana operations.

Also, as reported by Mining Weekly, on February 20, Kumba Iron Ore indicated that it would be conducting a Section 189A process, with about 490 jobs set to be impacted owing to a proposed reorganisation of the business because of reduced production as a result of logistics constraints.

“It is commonly accepted that every mineworker supports up to ten people, meaning that these notices may very well end up affecting 37 000 lives at Anglo American, 10 000 lives at Siyanda and the same number at Seriti Coal,” warns Mphahlele.

“The fact is that all labour laws are no longer responsive to the current socioeconomic realities of this world. For us to really address these issues, we need to address key policy issues such as amending extractive trade agreements by maximising beneficiation and limiting exports of raw materials to 60%,” he suggested. 

The NUM, meanwhile, said the mining companies do not have the interest of workers and their immediate families at heart. 

"What seems to be of their interest is only profit. 

"These decisions by the companies will lead to a high rate of unemployment in various communities. It is without doubt that dozens of families will be plunged into direct poverty since such decisions would affect thousands of workers and contractors," it says.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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