The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is deeply concerned about the prevalence of the COVID-19 infections in mining, energy and construction sectors where it organises.
The South African stats show that:
The total number of cases- 613.017.
· The total number of deaths- 13,308.
· The total number of cases recovered- 520.381.
The following trends are noted in our organizing sectors:
1. According to the Minerals Council of SA`s statistical data as at 28th August 2020 is as follows:
· Total number of Mines- 385.
· Total number of Employees- 443,952.
· Total screening- 348,083.
· Total tests- 45.591.
· Total positive cases- 13.826.
· Active cases-684.
2. The break down according to commodities:
· Platinum- 6.556 (active cases); 63 (deaths).
· Gold- 2,760 (active cases); 56 (deaths).
· Coal- 2,475 (active cases); 56 (deaths).
· Other- 2,035 (active cases); 10 (deaths).
3. The breakdown per Regions is as follows:
· North West- 5,393 (active cases); 51 (deaths).
· Mpumalanga- 2,641 (active cases); 21 (deaths).
· Limpopo- 2,257 (active cases); 18 (deaths).
· Gauteng- 1,520 (active cases); 30 (deaths).
· Free State- 1,187 (active cases); 22 (deaths).
· KZN- 146 (active cases); 0 (deaths).
· Western Cape-10 (active cases); 0 (deaths).
· Eastern Cape- 0 (active cases); 0 (deaths).
4. From the figures above, As NUM we note the following.
· The pandemic is still in prevalence in the Mining sector.
· The prevalence of the pandemic is slowing down.
· The recovery rate of the pandemic has improved.
· North West; Mpumalanga; Limpopo; Gauteng and Free State are regions with high Mining activities and as a result, these regions have high numbers.
5. Having noted the figures above, as NUM we would like the following to be considered and implemented.
· The Mining sector must ensure that systems and programmes continue to be put in place to address the prevalence of the pandemic.
· The protocols from the Government should continue to be adhered to, i.e.:
· Social distancing;
· Washing of hands;
· Wearing of masks.
· The regions with high cases must come up with campaigns to raise awareness to the workers in order to avoid complacency in the general workforce in the Mining sector.
· The Platinum; Gold and Coal sectors must continue to implement measures that will protect the workers.
6. OVERALL HEALTH AND SAFETY MATTERS IN MINING.
The NUM is concerned that there is no change in lowering the fatalities in 2019 as compared to the 2020 same period. This is even though mines were closed for a period over a Month in 2020. We further note that Fall of Ground; TMM and general causes continue to be the causes of these fatalities and injuries. Gold; Platinum and Coal are still competing for first place in the fatalities. We urge Mining houses to use the MHSC research outcomes and also learn from their peers on how best to address the causes of fatalities and injuries.
7. ENERGY SECTOR.
Eskom has reported the state of compliance across all its entire business divisions to be above 90%. Much as this looks good, we are saying we want sustainable compliance that is not less than 100%. The safety of public areas is a serious concern and we say to Eskom, public campaigns to raise awareness on the public safety regarding electricity must be sustained. Contractor management continues to be a key challenge is Eskom, and we say this area must be improved. Eskom must capacitate all its contractors.
We are concerned that the construction sector established what is called Construction COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Team without us as the NUM and organized labour in broader stakeholders. It is also disturbing that we do not have data from this sector on COVID-19 as NUM but employers and the Department of Labour know about the reported cases. We demand that the forum allow the representation of workers by the sectoral unions and get inputs from us as the affected party.
Companies carry a responsibility to provide salaries to workers during this pandemic, and where it is not possible to pay in full, they continue to carry the responsibility to follow the National Policies to ensure that workers are not made to suffer the impact of the pandemic at the workplaces. We further call on employers to refrain from using the pandemic to dismiss and retrench our members.
We call on companies to support workers and make the claim process for compensation of any work-related injury or disease is undertaken and the process is easy for the workers. This can only happen when:
· Full information is disclosed to workers on their state of safety and health.
· Workers are given full medical referral and attention where they have a medical condition.
· Full salaries must be paid during occupational illness book-offs.
We also call upon the Department of Health to declare these workplaces where COVID-19 cases are not safe to be closed until the employer complies with the regulations. We understand the challenge that the country is facing because of the possible collapse of the economy but that must not compromise the safety of the employees because life cannot be replaced but we can rebuild the economy.
The Coronavirus is a way more dangerous than just the flu and it is killing thousands of people around the world. Many countries have declared war on the virus including South Africa. The whole world is grappling with the coronavirus crisis. NUM members and other workers cannot be sacrificed for profits during the crisis. We expect all mining companies in South Africa to adhere to the strict health and safety measures in fighting the virus in their operations. The NUM calls on its members to refuse to work in mines and operations where necessary strict measures are not put in place to protect them from the virus. The NUM will not hesitate to name and shame mining companies that are not adhering to the strict health and safety measures in fighting the virus.
For more information, please contact:
Sipho Mungwe, NUM National Health and Safety Secretary, 082 328 8133/071 325 9720
7 Rissik Street.
Johannesburg 2001 Tel: 011 377 2111