The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is deeply concerned and disappointed by some employers, especially in the mining industry, are just concerned about profits even during this dark period in the history of mankind.
Some companies have decided to issue Section 189 notices intention to retrench and had to be stopped by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Minister Gwede Mantashe. To mention but a few of these companies are; Kangra and Zululand Anthracite Colliery in KwaZulu-Natal and Village Main Reef (VMR) in North West. We managed to talk some sense to VMR for them to put this idea in abeyance until after lockdown. We condemned the fact that the company sent cellphone messages to their employees to remain home even after the lockdown. This, together with non-payment of salaries, led to workers staging a wildcat strike, thus pitting themselves against the police.
The other companies have not even shown interest in talking to us. These are the types of companies who do not deserve to have a license to mine in this country. Given the fact that they even defy our government, their license should be recalled. Their attitudes are unpatriotic and deserve to be condemned.
We do understand that some companies are, indeed, in dire financial trouble hence our stance not to be hard on them as far as paying salaries during the lockdown. However, it is the duty of such companies to apply for relief funds on behalf of their employees from the UIF. What we cannot understand is why companies as big and rich as Sibanye Stillwater are claiming to be unable to fully pay their employees. This is an attitude that can only be informed by greed and nothing else.
Now that mining companies are, under level 4, are allowed to recall 50% of their workforce, we expect full compliance with the regulations. Some seem to believe that they are exempted from complying with social distance regulation and we want to assure them that they are not exempted. We expect at least 4 people per cage deck so as to comply with the requirement of a one-meter social distance. The government must ensure the enforcement of regulations by dispatching inspectors and even the police and the army to the mines. The army must not be seen to be preying on helpless citizens and allow employers to walk away with murder.
Our position is that 50% of the workers that have not been recalled must be paid either by the companies or through the relief fund (UIF).
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused considerable damage to the economy of our country and the livelihood of our people. The economy has lost billions of rand in production output and workers have lost billions of rand in earnings. However, the NUM appreciates the manner in which our government has handled the situation. If it was not for the pro-activeness and decisiveness of the government, thousands of lives might have been already lost by now. It is on that basis that the NUM fully supports the government in its efforts to save the lives of the people in this country.
We have received reports of COVID-19 positive reports in the mining industry. One was reported at Sibanye Stillwater in Gauteng and the two others at Dwarsrivier Mine in Limpopo. There is also a reported case at Koeberg Power Station and Drakensberg Power Station in KwaZulu-Natal. No death has been confirmed.
Lastly, we want to assure our members that we will allow no company to use the COVID-19 pandemic to retrench workers. It is opportunistic for KemJV in the Northern Cape to try and unilaterally reduce the salaries of workers by 12,5%. This is a matter we taking to court.
The Parties at VMR further agreed to prioritise communication as an epitome to unravel and fast-track all necessary measures required by the government to flatten the curve. VMR also undertook to do everything possible to keep the NUM abreast of any glitch whatsoever encountered during the return to work programme.
For more information, please contact:
David Sipunzi: NUM General Secretary: 082 883 7293
Livhuwani Mammburu: NUM National Spokesperson: 083 809 3257