The National Executive Committee of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) met from 24th-26th of June 2020 at the NUM’s College Elijah Barayi Memorial Training Center (EBMTC). The NEC deliberated and resolved on the following aspects of national and organizational importance;
As this was the first NEC meeting since the State President announced a lockdown in March. The NEC, therefore, had to assess the impact of the virus in the industries or sectors we organize in, the country as a whole and globally. In the beginning, there were no reported incidences of COVID-19 infection in the mining and construction industries. However, in Eskom, which is the energy sector we organize, there were a few reported cases. We believe that the closure of mining and construction contributed a lot in keeping the numbers of infected employees low or non-existent.
Increasing the workforce in mining by 50% resulted in a spike in the number of cases in the industry so has an increase to 100%. More testing revealed more positive cases. It is a pity that the mining companies are claiming that the government has instructed them to stop testing asymptomatic employees and also stop sharing information with NUM on COVID-19 statistics. Only Donald Trump can do this. If indeed it is true, the NEC vowed to take the government to task. We demand wholesale testing and we also reserve our right to invoke Section 23 of the Mine Health and Safety Act which allows employees to leave the dangerous working place. Compared to other industries, the mining industry is fast becoming the epicenter of COVID-19.
PAYMENT OF TERS/UIF
We appreciate that many of our members who could not be paid full salaries by their employers were beneficiaries of a temporary employee relief scheme. However, we must raise disappointment that this process had hiccups that left beneficiaries without reasonable earnings for longer than necessary. Also, the scheme has not paid foreign nationals who qualify to benefit citing SARS as the culprit. It is easy for SARS to receive monies deducted from these people as UIF but when they are supposed to benefit, there are excuses. This is unacceptable and morally wrong. We demand that these monies be paid to beneficiaries within 7 days from today.
RESUMPTION OF UNION ACTIVITIES AFTER THE LOCKDOWN
Since 27 March 2020, we had suspended all union meetings including Regional conferences that are a prelude to the National Congress. We have only been attending to CCMA cases and section 189 consultations as some companies were so inhumane that they were retrenching even during the lockdown.
The ramping up of mining operations to 100% means that our members need to be serviced by their union. Due to this, our staff members have to return to work. However, we are also required to take care of vulnerable employees. Out of a total of 182 staff members, 34 falls under the above category and the majority of them are working from home. Those who cannot work from home are staying at home with full pay until further notice. Other activities of the union like mass meetings and conferences are still suspended. Regional conferences that were supposed to take place in 2020 have been moved by a year to 2021 and the National Congress that was supposed to take place in 2021 has been moved by a year to 2022.
LAW ENFORCEMENT DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
A considerable number of police and army brutality cases during the lockdown has been reported. The death of Collins Khoza at the hands of the police and army in his own yard is the most talked about and there are many cases of abuse by the police. The NUM appeals to the powers that be to take appropriate action against the perpetrators to avert the uprising similar to the one caused by the murder of George Floyd by police in the US.
NUM YOUTH FACEBOOK PAGE
The NUM has resolved to endorse a Youth Facebook page to enable youth within the organization to contribute more towards the growth and strengthening the union. Participation on the page will be strictly in line with NUM Social Media Policy which is available on request from all regional offices of NUM and the Head Office. All NUM members, not only the young ones, are welcome to share their organizational, political, social and economic ideas, whose intention is to build, on the page.
UNBUNDLING OF ESKOM
The NEC has observed that as everybody was locked down, Eskom found the opportune time to implement its long-standing plan to unbundle. Eskom has unbundled and established three divisional boards namely, Generation, Transmission and Distribution. By doing this behind the backs of representative unions in the utility, Eskom management and Board are no different from those who looted billions of rand from Eskom. The NEC vowed to explore if there is no legal recourse for the union to declare this unbundling invalid for failure to engage stakeholders.
The NUM is adding its voice to those that are calling for harsher sentences against the murderers of women and children and general gender-based violence. No amount of excuses can justify a deliberate and planned killing of a human being. Our laws are so sweet towards criminals that criminals are not deterred from committing crime after crime. Criminals look like they have more rights than their victims. The failure to arrest and successfully prosecute perpetrators is a serious indictment on our justice system. The NEC resolved to embark on a campaign dubbed; “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” to further highlight the plight of women and children who suffer and die at the hands of those who are supposed to love and protect them.
It is a pity that some companies saw the outbreak of COVID-19 as the best opportunity to retrench the very same employees who are the victims of the disease. Yes, we expected that COVID-19 would have a very negative impact on the economy in the long run, but retrenching people in the midst of a lockdown is unprecedented. Such companies must be condemned with the contempt they deserve. How did they expect unions to interact with members on the matter of retrenchment? We hope that such companies are not beneficiaries of the economic stimulus package as announced by the President. We believe that the stimulus package is to alleviate the plight of companies in distress and their employees, not to enrich companies. Companies that do not sustain employment are not supposed to benefit from the taxpayers’ monies.
RE-AFFILIATION TO WORLD FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (WFTU)
A member of WFTU for only four years, NUM found itself having to disaffiliate due to the decision taken by COSATU to fully affiliate and therefore COSATU affiliate having to disaffiliate. This decision to disaffiliate was promptly taken by NUM without considering other issues surrounding it. On realizing political and economic considerations, COSATU persuaded NUM to rescind its decision. The NEC resolved to rescind the decision to disaffiliate from the World Federation of Trade Unions and become a full member until the COSATU affiliation process is completed.
For more information, please contact:
David Sipunzi: NUM General Secretary: 082 883 7293
Livhuwani Mammburu: NUM National Spokesperson: 083 809 3257
7 Rissik Street.
Tel: 011 377 2111