Numsa Calls For Moratorium On Mining Retrenchments

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numsa calls for moratorium on mining retrenchments

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has called for a moratorium on retrenchments mainly at the platinum group metals (PGM) as other mining operators are unable to absorb the laid-off workers at a time of economic hardships worsened by poor economic performance and high inflation.

Sibanye-Stillwater, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum have been laying off workers from shafts, head offices and across mining operations, arguing that PGM prices have tanked, thereby eroding profitability of the sector.

Trade union Uasa told at the weekend that the amount of jobs currently being lost in the mining industry was of grave concern. What was making the wave of retrenchments worse was the inability of other miners to absorb the retrenched workers.

Abigail Moyo, the spokesperson for Uasa, said, In previous years, the other mines could absorb the retrenched employees, but with the current massive amount of retrenched employees, there is no alternate work for them. Where will they find food and money to pay for school fees, water, lights and more. What will happen to the extended families, not even to address the contractors that are linked to mining?'

As many as 3700 mineworkers could be affected by a restructuring exercise at Amplats while Sibanye-Stillwater has cut down the planned retrenchments to 2 600.

More mineworkers from Implats are uncertain about their future after the company said last week that it could be forced to close down some shafts if turnaround processes fail to yield better fortunes.

Uasa said the lay-offs in the South African mining industry were getting out of control with communities in and around mining operations worse affected. Moyo cited the example of Carletonville in the West Rand as well as other towns linked to mining where poor communities have been left scrambling for means to survive.

There is no work, and the town and community live below the bread line. There is no work or new mines to absorb the ex-employees, so the alternative will be to become non-law-abiding citizens to survive, she said.

Numsa, which blames Department of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan for failing parastatals such as Eskom and Transnet whose inefficiencies are contributing to the closure of some mining operations, wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to speedily act on the issues hobbling miners.

Kumba Iron Ore said last month that it would reduce production as a result of the logistics and infrastructure bottlenecks while ArcelorMittal South Africa has demanded quick reforms and action on Transnet and Eskom after it postponed closure of its longs steel manufacturing business.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said in an interview that the union would be reaching out to NUM (the National Union of Mineworkers) and other progressive unions where we must be very vocal and take a stand that no worker must be a victim of lay-offs.

Numsa has called for a moratorium on lay-offs in the South African mining industry but this was likely to be resisted by the miners who argue that operations have been stretched below break-even because of low commodity prices in some cases and the electricity and port hold-ups in others.

Numsa calls on the government to act decisively and take the side of workers and say no to these retrenchments. We are calling for a moratorium on retrenchments, Jim told .

Where lay-offs and retrenchments were a result of logistics and infrastructure inefficiencies, Numsa is calling on Ramaphosa to axe Gordhan and employ a responsible replacement who was sensitive to maintenance of the current existing jobs and is serious about creating more jobs.

The year 2024 has been described by Uasa as the year of job losses, with the situation likely to get worse as headwinds afflicting the South African mining industry are likely to get worse.

Uasa foresaw that there will be more retrenchments, and the numbers will be high. The reasons for this are commodity price, (lack of operational) rail to transport the product, harbour failure, and electricity price remember the mines can only survive if the import and export sectors and chains are working, said Moyo.