A jobs massacre on the third anniversary of Marikana

The recent announcement by the mining industry that it would be axing thousands of jobs sent shudders of dread across the country.
The 10 joint interventions by the stakeholders  are meant to promote South African minerals,  enhance productivity and an agreement that when mines were intended to be mothballed or sold, saving jobs would be prioritized.

Despite there being no moratorium on retrenchments, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has welcomed the finalisation and signing of the Mining Industry Stakeholder Declaration on job losses. According to the Department of Mineral Resources about 19,000 jobs were currently at risk of being lost in the sector.

The 10 joint interventions by the stakeholders ranges from joint promotional initiatives to promote South African minerals, to agreements to enhance productivity and an agreement that when mines were intended to be mothballed or sold saving jobs would be prioritized.

The National Union of Mineworkers stated that the interventions will go a long way to ensuring the Mining Industry conducts its stakeholder consultation in a fair and transparent way. Joseph Montisetse, NUM Deputy President said that the intervention will enforce compliance with the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 2002 in terms of compliance with Social and Labour Plans in conjunction with Section 52 of the Act.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has not signed the agreement as it is still consulting its members. AMCU’s general secretary, Jeff Mphahlele said that the agreement would affect the basic conditions of employment of workers so they need to do a thorough consultation. “When mines are distressed financially, the plan talks about lay-offs and workers using their leave days and even going into unpaid leave, so we need to make sure that the workers understand and agree to this.”

AMCU is embattled in the fight against 6,000 possible retrenchments by Lonmin. The predominantly white unions, the United Association of South Africa and Solidarity, have accused AMCU of inviting the retrenchments for being too “militant” in leading last year’s 5-month long strike on platinum mines.

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In a press conference earlier this month AMCU’s Treasurer, Jimmy Gama suggested that meaningful government intervention on the platinum belt would involve the revoking of Lonmin’s mining license. Lonmin was shown to be in breach of the Mining Charter for completing just 3 of 5,500 houses it had committed to building for its workforce in the years 2007-11, all the while transferring its profits to Bermuda. “Lonmin should lose its mining license for this reason alone,” said Gama.

Signatories of the declaration are the Department of Mineral Resources (representing government), Chamber of Mines, South African Mining Development Association, National Union of Mineworkers, United Association of South Africa and Solidarity.
The NUM has stated that the extended consultation period, the implementation of accelerated rehabilitation process, establishment of cost containment committees in future forums, which opens up the books of companies to all affected stakeholders and the facilitation of distressed assets to other interested mining companies are some of the interventions that the union thinks are important.

AMCU has yet to formally respond to the Farlam Commission report. Mathunjwa made it clear that the union is unsatisfied with the report: “We were so disappointed. It was a whitewash, a bloodwash kind of report because the executive was not found accountable for any event that happened that day. We really feel strong that the Commission has not brought justice to the victims of the massacre.”

Cape Town-based labour analyst Martin Jansen has criticized the government for not being serious about saving and ensuring sustainable jobs. “For over 20 years they have been talking about beneficiation to ensure that precious metals are not simply exported, and jewellery and other products are to be made here. But no significant beneficiation industries have taken off in South Africa.”

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Jansen added that the other reason for this jobs crisis is that the ANC-led government has ditched nationalization as a policy in favour of market friendly policies. “The ANC has ditched nationalisation of the mines and the commanding heights of the economy that would at least ensure some job-security. Instead top ANC and government leaders are paid owners of these big companies and won’t touch them.”

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