Sunday 4 October 2015

Issues covered:

Headlines:

  • Chamber of Mines: Coal
  • Chamber of Mines: Gold

Retrenchments:

  • Retrenchment figures growing
  • Glencore: SA Collieries
  • Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium

Strikes and Protests:

  • Anti-corruption (14 October) and intended Cosatu march (7 October)
  • Tshwane bus drivers
  • SA Airways
  • Gauteng health department

General

  • Compensation to Marikana victims

Headline

Chamber of Mines: Coal

  • The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on 30 September 2015 that it would
    give coal producers a 48-hour strike notice after wage talks collapsed and the CCMA
    issued a certificate of non-resolution.
  • The NUM indicated that its latest demand for its lowest-paid members was for
    increases of R1,000 a month, which amounted to about 13% according to the NUM.
  • A spokeswoman for the Chamber of Mines, which represents Glencore, Anglo
    American Thermal Coal, Exxaro and others, said the coal producers had raised their
    offer to wage hikes of up to 8.5% for the lowest-paid workers.
  • It is estimated that some 30,000 workers could take part in the strike by the NUM.
  • UASA and Solidarity which represent mostly skilled workers and supervisors
    accepted the coal offers last week.

Chamber of Mines: Gold

  • A strike appears inevitable in the gold sector following a twist on Friday when the
    Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) rejected a wage offer
    that the NUM, Solidarity and the United Association of SA were prepared to accept.
  • AMCU, which represents approximately 30% of all bargaining unit gold workers,
    turned to their membership over the weekend to seek a mandate from them to call
    a strike rather than accept the offer.
  • The wage increase, tabled by the Chamber of Mines last week, would see entrylevel,
    underground employees receiving guaranteed pay of between R13,728 and
    R14,611 per month in the third year of the proposed agreement.
  • The acceptance of the deal by NUM, Solidarity and UASA (who represent workers at
    Evander Gold, Harmony Gold, AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony) means that it is only
    Sibanye, where Amcu is the majority union that would face a strike.

Retrenchments

  • Retrenchment figures growing
    • The formal sector shed a staggering 161,000 jobs between the second quarter of
      last year and the second quarter of this year, according to a Business Day Live
      report.
    • This is an indication on the way tough economic conditions are starting to bite.
    • In the second quarter of this year 1,000 jobs were lost when the economy
      contracted 1.3%, Statistics SA’s quarterly employment statistics survey showed.
    • “These job losses simply mean that our targets in the National Development
      Plan to reduce unemployment to 14% by 2020 are becoming more difficult to
      achieve,” Nedbank economist Isaac Matshego said.
    • But Stanlib chief economist Kevin Lings said the figures should be viewed with
      caution as they were “heavily distorted” by the fact that the government
      increased employment by 100,000 temporary jobs in the second quarter of last
      year due to elections in May.
    • Investec economist Kamilla Kaplan said the large number of resignations by
      public servants due to uncertainty over pension reforms could also have
      affected the numbers.
    • Significantly, research has also shown that half of the workers employed
      through labour brokers lost their jobs, while a far smaller portion got permanent
      jobs after amendments to the Labour Relations Act restricted the employment
      of temporary workers.
    • Formal sector jobs are likely to remain under pressure as the government will
      not hire as many people as it has in the past as it tries to curb its wage bill.
  • Glencore: SA Collieries
    • Glencore Plc is cutting a further 340 jobs in SA as the company closes depleted coal
      mines to withstand a downturn in commodity prices.
    • The resources giant has shed 240 jobs at its South Witbank coal mine in Mpumalanga and it plans to cut as many as 100 positions at the nearby Witcons coal-processing plant.
    • Previously this year, Glencore cut sections of its Optimum Coal unit, laying off 630 workers in response to a more than 40% slump in coal prices since the start of 2014.
    • Optimum Coal is currently undergoing business rescue proceedings.
    • Glencore also plans to shut its Eland platinum mine, which would put about 1,000 jobs at risk.
  • Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium
    • Creditors agreed unanimously to postpone a vote on the business rescue plan
      developed for Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium for two weeks.
    • Questions were raised about the preferred bidder’s commitment to South African
      suppliers and whether an alternative bid, which had been rejected, should not also
      be considered.
    • The rescue plan, published on 16 September, included a R405-million buyout offer
      from International Resources Limited (IRL), of Hong Kong, including an interlinked
      offer for the Mapochs mine, which supplies iron-ore to the Mpumalanga steel mill,
      but which is undergoing a separate business rescue process.
    • The plan had been endorsed by both government and labour, with National Union of
      Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim telling a well-attended
      meeting in Sandton that the plan offered a “serious prospect to win the day and turn
      around what looked like a very bleak picture”.
    • Trade union Solidarity said it was of paramount importance that the job security of
      the company’s employees was ensured. “We support the offer from International
      Resources Limited to acquire Evraz Highveld Steel as it could limit potential job
      losses at the company significantly, but we insist that job security must be offered to
      the company’s employees,” the union’s Marius Croucamp said.

Strikes & Protest Action

  • Tshwane bus drivers
    • Bus drivers affiliated to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) went on strike in
      Tshwane on Thursday morning.
    • The drivers are refusing to carry money bags and sell cash tickets due to safety
      concerns.
    • Last month, the union instructed its members to stop working until the situation was
      resolved.
    • The City of Tshwane’s Lindela Mashigo said an alternative fare collection system was
      being explored and commented: “The strike action comes after a decision was
      taken by the City that drivers should continue carrying money bags and sell cash
      tickets in the buses while an alternative system for collecting is being investigated.”
  • Anti-corruption and intended Cosatu march (7 October 2015)
    • The anti-corruption movement, headed by former Cosatu chief Zwelinzima Vavi,
      has been forced back to the drawing board after a very low turnout during
      Thursday’s protect march.
    •  An estimated group of 4,000 set out for the Union Buildings in Pretoria whilst a
      group of about 2,000 participated in Cape Town, figures that are a small fraction
      of the 100,000 billed to pour out on to the streets.
      o Whether this was due to Nedlac’s decision not to make it a protected march,
      which thereore kept many workers away, or a genuine lack of interest on the
      part of the public, is still unclear.
    • The success of the movement, and therefore Vavi’s return to public life, now
      hinges on the next march on 14 October, which will protect the rights of any
      worker who cares to join it. This march will be a week after the intended Cosatu
      march planned for 7 October 2015.
    • Around 250 groups supported the march, among them Numsa, the EFF,
      Congress of the People, the Inkatha Freedom Party, Solidarity and the Workers
      and Socialist Party filled the gaps.
    • In the meantime Cosatu has announced that it would have a march against a
      number of issues (including tollgates) on Wednesday 7 October 2015.
  • SA Airways
    • The National Transport Movement (NTM) has threatened further SAA flight
      disruptions at OR Tambo International Airport pending a Labour Court judgment.
    • The union and ground handling company Swissport locked horns on Wednesday in
      the Labour Court in Johannesburg with the union seeking to reverse Swissport’s
      interdict barring union members from striking.
    • Workers went on strike in demand for a basic salary of R11,000 a month, a housing
      allowance of R3,500, a transport allowance of R2,000 and a medical aid allowance of
      R2,000.
    • It is understood that Swissport is preparing a settlement offer to resolve the dispute.
  • Gauteng Health Department
    • The Gauteng Health Department has conceded that the law was not properly
      followed during the recent appointments of some staff at Soweto’s Chris Hani
      Baragwaneth Hospital.
    • Dozens of National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) members
      marched to the hospital yesterday against what they called the “capture” of the
      facility by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
    • Among Nehawu’s claims were that management and staff at the hospital were
      unlawfully giving jobs to EFF supporters.
    • Nehawu members also demanded that hospital CEO Sandile Mfenyana should resign
      within a week.
    • The health department’s Steve Mabona indicated that they were investigating the
      matter and would examine the contracts in question.
    • The disputed appointments are for cleaners and kitchen staff.

General

  • Marikana: Compensation to victims
    • Lawyers representing families of workers killed and injured during the Marikana
      massacre in 2012 have cautiously welcomed the government’s move to compensate
      the victims, saying they await the instructions of their clients at this stage.
    • President Jacob Zuma indicated on Tuesday that the government wanted to address
      the after effects of the tragic incidents, with his spokesperson saying a few days
      later that “the thinking is that the government needs to play a bigger role in closing
      this chapter.”
    • However EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said until the government came up with
      concrete proposals there was nothing to be excited about.