INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Petra Diamonds

After ending its underground sit-in of 150 members over five days at the Ekapa Mining Joint Venture operations of Petra Diamonds in Kimberley, Northern Cape, the National Union of Mineworker (NUM) has committed to proceed with its strike action at Ekapa.  Over the five days, 33 miners had to be rescued due to health complications.  NUM reached an interim agreement with the owners, but NUM President Piet Matosa said the strike with a wage demand of 17% was still continuing.

In related developments, the following:

  • In a notice on 14 September, Ekapa Minerals (EM) abandoned part of its interdict against so-called ‘zama zama’ miners in Kimberley, calling into question the validity of the entire interdict.  The miners had appealed in the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) against the interdict, which prevents them from entering and mining on certain property belonging to EM.  As part of their application, they presented evidence which showed that EM was not legally entitled to interdict some of the property.  The case began in 2015, when De Beers began selling off mine dumps to various companies, including EM.  Zama zama informal miners had been mining the dumps before the sale.  Although EM had not yet acquired ownership of the dumps, it successfully applied for an interdict to prevent the miners from entering the dumps and from removing or excavating material.  The zama zamas, represented by Spoor Inc, challenged the validity of the interdict, but it was confirmed by both the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal.  They then turned to the ConCourt with new supporting evidence.  EM then decided to abandon the interdict over two farms.  This victory for the zama zamas may bolster their efforts to have the appeal heard by the ConCourt.  Meanwhile, Ekapa has been back in court with an urgent application to have the portions of the interdict that have not been abandoned enforced against the zama zamas.

Workers at the Petra Mines’ Finsch Mine commenced strike action last Monday. The strategy of an underground sit-in was also used to support the workers’ demand for 10% salary increases. About 67 Num members are participating.

Optimum and Koornfontein

Mineworkers from the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein collieries, along with members of the Hendrina community in Mpumalanga, on Tuesday marched to their local banks over the closure of Oakbay-linked accounts.  They submitted their memorandum of demands to Standard Bank, Absa and Capitec Bank.  Management at all three banks accepted the memorandum and said they would forward it to their head offices.  The employees have demanded that the banks ensure employees at the mines do not lose their jobs due to the closure of accounts.  “As it is widely publicised that these mines are in a process of being sold we demand that the banks wait until this process is concluded as a means of saving jobs,” the memorandum read.  Sbu Mahlangu of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said that they were giving the banks seven working days to respond to their memo.  The Bank of Baroda is reportedly the only remaining bank in SA that still has active bank accounts with Gupta family businesses and litigation is pending in that regard.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

PSA likely to table 12% wage demand in public sector wage negotiations

At the annual general meeting of the 230,000 strong Public Service Association (PSA), it was announced that it would be tabling a 12% salary increase demand when public sector wage negotiations get under way on 16 October.  The figure had to still be discussed with other trade unions, including Cosatu affiliates, before a final demand was agreed on for presentation to the government by the labour caucus, but it was unlikely to be lower.  Earlier this month, senior managers in government received a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment, backdated to April.

‘Demise of MEIBC inevitable if Seifsa/Numsa/DOL cartel continues trying to extend agreements’

National Employers Association of SA (Neasa) CEO Gerhard Papenfus argues that protecting the current centralised collective bargaining dispensation in the metals industry will ensure its complete downfall.  He writes that, although collective bargaining in SA has many shortcomings, they are not the issues that are about to cause the imminent downfall of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).  Rather, it is the unlawful extension of agreements between employer federation Seifsa and (primarily) the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, which thereby enforces a self-serving arrangement on the rest of the Industry, with devastating consequences.  Papenfus maintains that the small, medium-sized and microenterprises in the metals industry are not opposed to collective bargaining, but they are opposed to being bullied by the ‘Seifsa/Numsa/Department of Labour’ cartel.  Their protests are said to be against being put out of business by role-players with absolutely no sensitivity for the plight of SMMEs.  He also says that if the ‘cartel’ continues with its attempts to extend their agreements by unlawful means (since they no longer have the representivity to do it legally) it will cause the downfall of the MEIBC, which will be simply a matter of time.  “The industry has recently witnessed the gradual decline of the council.  Its sudden demise might be imminent.”

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC MATTERS

Consumer inflation increases by 4,8%

Statistics SA announced on Wednesday that the consumer price index (CPI) rose 4.8% in August from a year earlier.  That compares with a 4.6% year-on-year increase in July, and expectations that inflation would pick up even faster to 4.9%.  CPI inflation, on which the Reserve Bank bases its 3%-6% inflation target, has been within that band since April this year.  One of the main factors in moderating inflation this year has been slowing food price increases.  Food inflation spent the better part of a year in double digits, but the alleviation of the drought in most areas — apart from the Western Cape — has helped food inflation to fall back into single digits, and it has been steady near 7% in the past few months.  It is expected to continue to moderate in August.  Transport fuels were up 5.7% year-on-year in August, after a 3.6% fall in July.

2,500 Impala jobs at risk

Impala Platinum (Impala) could lay off up to 2,500 of its 31,000-strong workforce at its Rustenburg mining operations to cope with low metal prices and declining production.  CEO Nico Muller said last Monday that the platinum producer had informed unions, government authorities and other stakeholders at its Rustenburg mines that it had started a so-called ‘Section 189’ process in terms of the Labour Relations Act to restructure those mines, meaning that jobs could be lost.  “It is expected that some 2,500 people could be affected near term, but this does not preclude further optimisation processes that may be required in future to ensure the continued sustainability of the operation,” Muller stated.  He added that “no final decision has been taken as regards the proposed restructuring, and no final decision will be taken prior to full and proper consultation with affected employees, and their representatives.”

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

GEPF and PIC

Warren Thompson of Moneyweb interviewed Abel Sithole, principal executive officer of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), following allegations that the board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was going to oust its CEO, Dr Dan Matjila.  The PIC manages approximately R1.8 trillion on behalf of the 1.2 million active members of the GEPF, whose membership comprises public servants across SA.  Sithole’s views were sought on the GEPF’s relationship with the PIC, as well as concerns regarding the GEPF being used to recapitalise the likes of SAA and potentially a host of other beleaguered state-owned entities.  Sithole explained the levers the GEPF has at its disposal to address any perceived weaknesses in governance at the PIC.  These include activating a provision in the law that gives it power to influence appointments at the PIC, as well as in an extreme scenario, terminating the PIC as the fund’s chosen investment manager.  But Sithole was quick to point out that thus far, they were happy with the working relationship they have with the institution, and this would only change if they felt the PIC did not have the interests of the 1.2 million active members of the GEPF front and centre.

Medical schemes under pressure to keep hikes in contributions under 10%

Bonitas Medical Fund has announced a weighted increase of 8.7% in contribution costs for next year, while Discovery has announced one of 7.9%.  The increases are the lowest seen in several years.  Last year, Bonitas announced a 10.98% average increase, and Discovery Health one of 10.2% for 2017, and most other schemes followed suit with double-digit increases.  Most of the other schemes are yet to announce their 2018 increases.  Medical inflation is estimated at 8.93%, and is always significantly higher than CPI inflation, which came in at 4.8% for August.  For all schemes, the challenge lies in dealing with the rising costs of healthcare, and at the same time curbing expenditure.  A further challenge lies in keeping up with new trends in healthcare, and adjusting benefit schedules to reflect this.

LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE

Zama zamas in Kimberley undeterred as they vow to continue mining

It appears that illegal miners around Kimberley in the Northern Cape will continue mining without interruptions from the police and mining houses, while awaiting their mining permits.  This was the outcome of a meeting held between representatives of the illegal miners (known as zama zamas), the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and Black First Land First (BLF).  The meeting took place after the arrest of the illegal miners’ leaders last week following an altercation with the police and mining company, Ekapa Mining, which wanted them to vacate the land they were mining on.  BLF leader Andile Mngxitama hailed the meeting as a success, saying giant mining houses, including De Beers, were the ones without rights to mine on any land in the country.  He went on to say:  “So, as far as the continuation of production, nothing stops.  Our people must continue.  The police must stay away and we’re waiting for confirmation of these rights through the permit system.”

BUSA wants directors held criminally responsible

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) said on Wednesday that to help weed out graft, SA company directors must he held criminally responsible for corrupt practices taking place under their watch.  “Where there is evidence of criminal behaviour, regardless of scale, this should be brought to the attention of the relevant authorities, charges should be laid and prosecutions pursued.  This includes pursuing personal criminal liability for directors where applicable,” said BUSA, which represents organised SA businesses, in a statement.  BUSA wants corporate SA to institute a “zero tolerance approach” to corruption, which it noted was hurting SA’s economic prospects, scaring off foreign direct investment and wasting tax rands.  The organisation said it expected KPMG SA to “speedily and comprehensively” investigate allegations that its South African unit was involved in corruption.  It also called on other businesses to share the results of internal investigations into suspected misconduct with the public, and not keep them secret.

UNION AFFAIRS

Amcu members shot

A member of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) was shot dead at Impala Platinum and another wounded at Lonmin in Marikana near Rustenburg on Tuesday.  This was the second such incident at Impala within a week. No one has been arrested.

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