The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is concerned about the rising number of Covid-19-positive cases in the mining industry, especially in Limpopo, and at State-owned power utility Eskom's operations.
The union states that some mines in Limpopo have become hotspots, where the virus is spreading at an “alarming rate”.
The first mine to have reported positive cases of Covid-19 was the Marula platinum mine, with 19 confirmed cases in a space of 24 hours. The second is the Dwarsrivier chrome mine that has 30 confirmed cases of Covid-19, to date.
The NUM is also displeased with the criteria used to call employees back to work following a decision that was taken to allow mines to operate at 50%.
The NUM is worried about the negative impact that Covid-19 will have in mining communities.
The union states that it is “clear that mining companies are not complying with Covid-19 regulations”, and that the regulatory department must “deal harshly” with those mining companies that are not adhering to the regulations.
It suggests that employers must be “forced” to respect the Covid-19 regulations. “It cannot be employers doing whatever they want and trampling on the rights of the workers.”
The NUM is aware that workers are being “bullied and threatened” with retrenchments since the lockdown started by what they allege are “arrogant” and “brutal” employers. However, to combat the issue, the NUM states that it is willing to fight “tooth and nail” for the dignity and respect of its members.
“We expect all mining companies in South Africa to adhere to the strict health and safety measures in fighting the virus in their operations,” states the NUM. The union calls on its members to refuse to work in mines and operations where necessary measures are not put in place to protect them from the virus.
In terms of Eskom, the NUM reports that, within the utility, a total of 20 Covid-19 cases have been reported nationally. The majority, 14, of the cases have been in the Western Cape.
In this regard, the NUM is concerned about how Eskom is treating the Covid-19 cases.
The NUM is still waiting for the Department of Health to investigate whether the Koeberg power station has followed the correct regulations when dealing with Covid-19 cases.
The NUM believes Eskom is prioritising energy generation above the safety of employees. “We are again calling on the government to investigate the Koeberg situation.”