Unions concerned about looming job losses in the mining industry

Unions concerned about looming job losses in the mining industry. Picture: File

Unions concerned about looming job losses in the mining industry. Picture: File

Published Feb 27, 2024


Unions have broken their silence regarding the looming job culling facing scores of mining houses across the country in recent weeks.

The Star reported yesterday that thousands of jobs were on the line following the conclusion of a Section 189 process by platinum and gold mine Sibanye Stillwater.

Anglo American Platinum Mines (Amplats) is another mine reportedly hit by possible retrenchments, after also distributing Section 189 letters to permanent and contract employees.

The mining sector has faced challenges in recent months.

Cosatu raised concerns about the possible job losses, and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) urged Amplats workers to fight the retrenchments.

According to media reports, the platinum producer will be reducing its headcount by a fifth after a 71% plunge in profitability.

Saftu said it was opposed to the anticipated job losses at Amplats.

“These layoffs threaten the livelihoods of approximately 17% of the workforce at Amplats. They are planned at a critical time, amid an already staggering unemployment rate (narrow definition) of 32.1%. The number of employed persons decreased by 22 000 in the fourth quarter of 2023, leading to 11.6 million people unemployed inclusive of those who have given up looking for jobs. Looked at from the broader context of the economic trajectory, these retrenchments are going to worsen unemployment which is high in the world,” the federation said.

Saftu said it was of the view that the retrenchments had nothing to do with a difficult mining environment but were motivated by capitalist considerations.

“By the nature of how a capitalist society works, in which workers need jobs to subsist, the impact of these potential job losses will be devastating, affecting families, and leading to increased poverty,” Saftu said.

Cosatu general secretary Solly Phetoe said its affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was deeply concerned about the job losses.

He said the mining industry had been a backbone for the country's economic and industrial development.

He added that one of the catalysts to this disaster was load shedding.

“To stem this pending disaster we must give additional support to Eskom to end load shedding.

“We must fast-track the implementation of the new mining rights applications system to revive investments in this jobs-rich sector.”

The United Association of South Africa (Uasa), a trade union associated with Fedusa, also said it was concerned that a notice of invitation from Amplats to consult regarding section 189A of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) would lead to large-scale retrenchments at the mine.

Uasa spokesperson Abigail Moyo said Amplats was proposing a restructuring process for its operations that would impact more than 3 700 employees who stood to lose their jobs. More than 600 contractors would also be affected.

“It is deeply troubling to see an industry giant like Amplats resort to retrenchments, seemingly unable to create work for its employees, many of whose livelihoods are now threatened,” she said.

She said Amplats had indicated that the restructuring call “results from several challenges, which include, but are not limited to, market conditions, reduced productivity, and slow economic growth”.

Moyo said Uasa would do everything possible to ensure its members employed at the mine kept their jobs.

“Uasa will constructively participate, engage and negotiate with Amplats to look at and consider all possible options that may assist the company and save people’s jobs in the long run,” she said.

The Star

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