DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Denosa and SA Nursing Council

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) says it has on multiple occasions tried to meet with the South African Nursing Council (SANC) to deal with issues surrounding the process of nurses obtaining their practicing licenses.  Because its calls to meet with the council have fallen on deaf ears, the union will be marching to the council’s offices on 22 February.

Lily Mine

After a year following the tragedy in which three employees were buried alive in a container, the Lily Mine tragedy has not yet been resolved. During the past week a small group of retrenched mineworkers and members of the KaloMshiyo community in Barberton joined in road blockages as part of protest action over unpaid salaries and the abandoned rescue of the three mineworkers. The mine is under business rescue and the workers have not been paid since the end of October last year.  Unions are concerned about the business rescue practitioner making empty promises for the past 10 months, with nothing coming to fruition.

Eskom and IPPs

The announcement by the State President that contracts with independent power producers (IPPs) will be finalised soon is welcome news to projects already started or in the pipeline. Amongst those badly affected is the R536-m Wind Towers venture in the Coega industrial development zone near Port Elizabeth where shedding of jobs have already commenced and closure could occur in April 2017.

Nehawu and social development department

The National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the largest union in the Public Sector, announced that its members at the department of social development will embark on a national strike as a result of collapsed negotiations on matters of mutual interest in the bargaining council.  It is demanding an allowance for those who work in rural areas, improved conditions of service for all employees in the department and permanent jobs for unemployed social workers. It was organising marches in five provinces to take place from last Friday, with the main march in Pretoria, where a memorandum of demands will be handed over to both the department of social development and department of public service and administration.

REMUNERATION

Minimum wage for South Africa

Deputy President Ramaphosa announced that agreement was reached in Nedlac for a minimum wage of R3 500 per month for a 40 hour week (R20 per hour) or R3 900 for a 45 hour week. The deputy president acknowledged that R3 500 per month is not a living wage, but he said it would be the start of the process to pursue a living wage.

Ramaphosa cautioned that businesses who can’t afford the minimum wage avoid retrenchment and apply for exemption instead. The national minimum wage agreement would come into effect in 2018.

At the same time it was also announced that agreement was also reached regarding specific interventions to prevent extended strike action and to ensure more effective resolution of strikes.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

Lonmin productivity and absenteeism

Lonmin’s first quarter results, which is normally the worst for Lonmin due to the effect of public holidays over the festive season, was typified was typified by lower-than-expected productivity and absenteeism at its Rustenburg operations. The major culprit was the apparent under-performance of Lonmin’s productivity drive which it implemented following retrenchments of about 6,000 staff last year. Lonmin identified K3 shaft, its largest, as the main culprit saying that the relationship between management and union leaders was not functioning well enough while productivity initiatives were not taking grip. It was deploying additional stoping and vamping crews to the shaft where tonnes mined in the quarter was nearly 14% lower in the hope of improving production from immediately available ore reserves. Lonmin warned, however, that this “… may have an adverse impact on the shaft head cost per tonne which we would seek to mitigate by further reducing our overhead costs”. This is interpreted by unions as another possibility of retrenchments.

Impala: Ill health and absenteeism

Platinum producer Impala Platinum (Implats) has retained Deloittes to help improve performance at its troubled Rustenburg mines. Deloitte would help improve a number of basic issues such as employee ill health and absenteeism.  About 1,000 of the mine’s 40,000 employees are off work at any one time.

ANC NEC lekgotla and poultry industry

According to media reports, the ANC national executive committee (NEC) proposed that the government should buy poultry farms that were being forced to close down because of chicken imports.  Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the government must intervene to prevent the job losses being experienced in the poultry industry and that the state would have to find new markets for poultry from those farms.  Retrenchments would affect KwaZulu-Natal more than elsewhere as poultry farms were major employers in the province.  Meanwhile, the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and its industry co-stakeholders marched to the EU embassy in Pretoria on Wednesday to seek immediate intervention in the local poultry job loss crisis.

Mining Indaba: Job creation

Neal Froneman (in his capacity as vice-president of the Chamber of Mines) described a number of potential mining innovations and practices, including round-the-clock mining, non-explosive rock-breaking and mining at depth could save some 200,000 jobs that might be lost by 2025 in South Africa’s mining industry. “If we can lower costs, we can access lower grade resources and then put in safety pillars and go deeper. Once we get to 24/7 mining we can extend gold mining in South Africa to 2045,” he said. “It’s a huge challenge, but it can be done.” Froneman said South Africa had 400 million tonnes of low grade gold that was amenable to profitable extraction using some of the techniques he described.

About 160 million tonnes of high grade ore was locked up in pillars that are already exposed if only they could be mined safely. “We could double the amount of mining below current infrastructure with appropriate technologies,” he said.

A low grade mine could extend operations by 15 years; in fact, adding an extra gram per tonnes mined would result in an additional 10 million tonnes yielding two tonnes of gold at mines owned by AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye Gold – the firm of which Froneman is CEO. “If we do nothing, gold mining will die out by 2033,” he said. “So, there’s a good reason why should pursue these goals,” he added. “It’s not something we have an option on; we have to do this.”

LEGAL, LEGISLATION & COMPLIANCE

Mining Indaba: Revised Mining Charter

Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane announced at the Mining Indaba that his department would publish its revised Mining Charter by March 2017.  A revised Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act will be finalised by June, proposing to give the state a 20% free stake in new energy projects and the ability to buy further shares.  The Mining Charter was introduced in 2002 to increase black ownership of the mining industry.

Untu and Prasa

The United National Transport Union (Untu) announced that it planned to take the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to court for an interdict to force the latter to protect its employees against criminals.  “The court is the union’s last resort in its fight to protect its Prasa membership, especially train crews, against increasing senseless violent attacks from criminals who know that they are defenseless soft targets,” Untu general secretary, Steve Harris, said in a statement.  Harris stated that the union had tried all other avenues to convince Prasa’s management to adhere to their obligations as an employer. The announcement follows another train driver being injured in an incident in which a brick shattered the window of the driver cabin.

UNION ISSUES 

New labour federation launch set for March

Hundreds of provincial shop stewards from various unions aligned to the “new” to be formed labour federation met in Turfontein, south of Johannesburg, to discuss the draft constitution and logo ahead of a congress at which the launch will take place.

The delegates were told that the formation was in a good financial position and was ready to launch in March.  The delegates also recommended that the minimum wage of R3,500 per month should be an issue to be pursued by the federation since the delegates were of the opinion that it is too low.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Mining Indaba: Silicosis class action

Mining companies facing class action from mine workers who contracted silicosis on SA’s gold mines remain hopeful that there will be an out of court settlement.  Graham Briggs, former Harmony CEO and chairperson of the Mining Industry Working Group on Occupational Lung Disease (MIWGOLD), said on the sidelines of the 2017 Mining Indaba that there was good collaboration among stakeholders in the industry, labour and government to find a speedy solution.  In May last year, the South Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of mine workers who intend on launching a silicosis class action against Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, African Rainbow Minerals, Gold Fields, Sibanye Gold and Harmony Gold.  The six producers have since come together to form the MIWGOLD.  Briggs also said there was a problem separate to the class action suit in that the claimants still have not received payment from a compensation fund managed by the Department of Health.

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