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Press Statement, 24 April 2020
NUM KIMBERLEY REGION IS DISAPPOINTED WITH THE DECISION TAKEN BY THE DMRE MINISTER TO ALLOW MINES TO OPERATE AT 50%
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Kimberley Region is disappointed and perturbed by the decision taken by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Gwede Mantashe to allow mines to operate on 50% capacity.
Since the announcement by Minister that mining companies can now operate on 50% production, mines in the Northern Cape took advantage of that and they took short cuts in implementing the return to work business plan.
'We have engaged with almost every company in the Northern Cape, part of Free State and North West including contractors. We are very disappointed and perturbed by the attitudes of these mines. They are exposing workers to the risk of contracting Coronavirus and they are not adhering to the regulations. Our reasoning behind this is that there is no compliance on critical issues outlined in the regulations of COVID-19 for mines to operate on a 50% capacity. They are forcing employees to take unpaid leaves," said Cornelius Manhe, NUM Kimberley Regional Secretary.
"We are perplexed by CEO’S who refuses to test workers to establish if they are affected by the Coronavirus and only want to implement only screening. This cannot be right as the screening cannot be the only one to determine whether employees are affected by the COVID-19 or not. We thus call upon the CEO’S to reverse their decision if indeed they care about their employees," Manhe added.
The majority of the mining companies refuse to pay employees their salaries, saying that they have applied to the Department of Labour for UIF, therefore, they don’t have financial muscles to pay salaries. The NUM has rejected this attitude of some of the employers because these employers were making huge profits before COVID-19, they never declare themselves to have financial constraints.
Some companies have even gone as far as cutting salaries of employees with 33,3% which is a sign of direct undermining of regulations stipulated because nowhere has the regulations ever suggested that employers can cut workers’ salaries. Another worrying factor is the issue of transport the regulations are clear that companies must arrange transport for all employees during the lockdown.
The burning and critical point of contention are cages wherein employers are arguing that they are placing a reduced number of employees in a cage, which to us is still risky as measures by employers to prevent possible infections. The NUM is unhappy because it is difficult to adhere to the regulation of social distancing in a cage.
The NUM is calling on its members not to hesitate to initiate Section 23 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA) as this is the only legal recourse they could utilize to protect themselves from endangering their health and safety. Section 23 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA) empowers mineworkers ro refuse to work in dangerous environment.
We, therefore, call upon the Department of Minerals and Energy (DMRE) to immediately stop mining companies that are not in compliance with the regulations. We further call on the Department of Labour to also send out Inspectors who will monitor compliance of contractors operating at mines because employers at these sectors are largely known for not complying to any legislation.
The Coronavirus is a way more dangerous than just the flu and it is killing thousands of people around the world. Many countries have declared war on the virus including South Africa.. The whole world is grappling with the coronavirus crisis. NUM members and other workers cannot be sacrificed for profits during the crisis. We expect all mining companies in South Africa to adhere to the strict health and safety measures in fighting the virus in their operations. The NUM calls on its members to refuse to work in mines and operations where necessary strict measures are not put in place to protect them from the virus. The NUM will not hesitate to name and shame mining companies that are not adhering to the strict health and safety measures in fighting the virus.
NUM will continue to defend its members through these tough times and ensure there is justice with the arrogance of this nature.
ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL UNION OF MINEWORKERS.
For more information, please contact:
Cornelius Manhe, NUM Kimberley Regional Secretary, 079 871 5514
7 Rissik Street.
Tel: 011 377 2111
Twitter: @Num Media