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South African union saves mineworkers’ jobs

24 January, 2017Demonstrating the power of dialogue, a strong trade union and enabling legislation, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa has successfully averted the loss of 849 jobs.

Gold mining company AngloGold Ashanti issued a section 189 notice to the union on 20 January 2017 of its intention to lay off a massive 849 workers. A section 189 is a notification in the event of mass retrenchment, and is a formal legislative requirement.

The notice initiates formal consultations with unions. Failure to reach agreement with unions would lead to a mediated facilitation in terms of labour law.

The NUM successfully averted the planned retrenchment in negotiations with AngloGold Ashanti, saving all 849 jobs. The workers will be retrained and transferred to other areas of the company.

The NUM rejected the company’s retrenchment plans as insensitive to the high unemployment rate, and argued for alternatives. The job losses would have had disastrous consequences for mineworkers at AngloGold Ashanti, their families and the country. 

AngloGold Ashanti and the union entered into an agreement that would save the “over complement” jobs involved. The agreement entails a re-skilling of the affected workers and a transfer of others to the company’s other business units.

In what has been described as “robust negotiations” by the NUM’s mining coordinator for AngloGold Ashanti, Tafa Moya, an analysis of all the business units within the company was undertaken to determing labour needs and opportunities, with a view to finding a mutually beneficial solution.

This is in contrast to what AngloGold Ashanti did in Ghana: 3,100 mineworkers lost their jobs when the Obuasi mine was placed on limited operations, while a comprehensive feasibility study was undertaken that would see the mine become highly mechanised.

Moya said the NUM will meet with the company on Friday where AngloGold Ashanti will report back on where the workers will be transferred to.

Complimenting the NUM on this great achievement, IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said: 

“This is another example that shows that mining companies, left to their own devices, will pursue profit above all else. The NUM has shown that by rejecting AngloGold Ashanti’s initial plan to retrench 849 workers, trade unions can fight back and protect the collective interests of their members”.

AngloGold Ashanti is a gold mining company with its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is globally diverse, boasting seventeen gold mines in nine countries, and is the third largest gold mining company in the world measured by production.