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South African union demands reversal of retrenchment notice for 200 miners

19 August, 2021The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is demanding a reversal of the retrenchment notice to lay off 200 workers out of a workforce of 301 at China Africa Precious Metals (CAPM) gold mine in Matlosana, saying CAPM did not exhaust all options before making the decision.

According to NUM, when the company took over the mine in 2012, they promised to improve the maintenance of the mine shaft and the pumping of water from underground. CAPM also promised to create 10 000 jobs and had said it would start by hiring 2,000 workers.

Instead of the retrenchments, the union is proposing that workers be put on rotational layoffs at 50 per cent wages to allow the company to fix the winders at the mine. Workers will then return to work when the mine is fully operational.

Further, the union wants CAPM to apply for the employee temporary relief scheme. The Unemployment Insurance Fund Covid-19 Temporary Employee/employer Relief Fund falls under the department of labour and employment and was created to assist companies in distress because of the pandemic.

“The retrenchment is a double blow for us after being passed from Aurora to CAPM as the mine changed hands. We have not been paid by Aurora and the case is being finalised in court. And now we are being retrenched,”

says Mguga Mava. He has worked at the mine’s engineering department for 12 years and says workers are still owed money by Aurora which went under liquidation.

The Pamodzi Gold mine has a troubled history. CAPM took over the mine in 2011 and was reported to have demanded that workers in South Africa waive their labour rights in its new agreement with Pamodzi Gold. The controversy was resolved with the National Union of Mineworkers with CAPM reportedly committing to “ constructive engagement in the future, based on mutual trust and goodwill”.

"The NUM disagrees with CAPM on cutting jobs by 66 per cent. We are disappointed that it is the same former Aurora workers who will be affected by these retrenchments. The NUM hoped that when the mine re-opened, the unemployment in the region would be reduced, and that the conditions of workers in this mine would be aligned to those of the industry as undertaken by the company.

"We are very much disappointed to find ourselves back paddling as the mine faces closure and is going into care and maintenance,"

says Masibulele Naki, NUM regional secretary for Matlosana.

The union says Chinese owned companies like CAPM are exploiting workers “without showing the slightest respect for the basic labour laws.”
The NUM went on strike at the mine in 2018 for better health and safety conditions to avoid situations in which workers would be forced to work under dangerous conditions. At the time there were no risk assessments being carried out as per mining regulations. The strike forced the department of mineral resources and energy to inspect the mine and ask the employer to comply.

However, workers say some issues related to winder engines, cables and communication bell recorders for operators are yet to be resolved.

“Jobs should be preserved, especially under the harsh conditions of Covid-19. CAPM should have a dialogue with NUM and the government to find ways to save jobs. It is important to always remember that workers have families to look after and their welfare should be seriously considered before deciding on retrenchments,”

says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.