NUM urges expedited vaccine rollout, says workers must have choice

31st May 2021 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has expressed concern about the prevalence of Covid-19 infections at workplaces in the mining industry, but says it remains up to employees to choose or refuse consent to the vaccination process.  

The union is sending a clarion call in support of an expedited Phase 2 vaccination rollout.

NUM cites data by the Minerals Council South Africa, which finds that, as at May 24, there have been 35 571 Covid-19 cases in the mining industry, of which 399 are still active.

Only 946 vaccinations have been recorded in the mining industry.

The mining sector as at the end of May employed 488 854 people, across 385 mines.

Of the total positive cases recorded, most have been in the platinum sector, followed by coal, while North West and Limpopo have had the most instances of Covid-19 recorded in the mining sector.

The NUM explains that government has been initiating phases of the vaccination programme, specifically allocating R10-billion for the purchase and distribution of the vaccine.

The union has commended precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater for having bought Covid-19 vaccines for its 80 000 workers and their dependants. The NUM says it welcomes responses to the pandemic such as this. 

The union also expressed concern about talks at government level around mandatory vaccination policies, which may demand that workers be vaccinated or lose their jobs.

The union states that the vaccine rollout must not undermine the rights of workers.

“Every worker has the right to agree or refuse to be vaccinated and there should be no legislation that compels workers to be vaccinated,” the NUM states, adding that those who choose not to be vaccinated must follow safety measures as preventive measures to the virus.