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By Mike Fafuli
Globally capitalism has been in crisis from as early as the mid-1970s. The reality is that while minorities of authoritative individuals who own the means of production and in managing these crises have efficaciously transformed their liability into an albatross of the working class.
A status quo which by inevitability should profile the price tag of class struggle .Thus agitating a momentum that translates into strong unions to mitigate the transferred burden. But also generate advantageous conditions amenable to let loose a counter class offensive part of its natural charge being marshaling in the building blocks for an alternative system that would rein a democratized control of the work environment.
This could administer prospects of reasonably stable work environment, better pay, good working and living conditions. Overall promote and entrench the agenda of decent work in South Africa as opposed to outright marginalization of the workers in the form of retrenchments or suppressed pay as is the situation currently.
In order to protect the narrow interests the conditions of the workers and the poor have been under sustained attack as capitalism continues in its decline as imaginably the perfect natural system. So the high ultra-pays in the executive layers of corporations while seeking to keep best skills to manage these challenges and cement the administrative arm as the buffer have also triggered challenges that have invited non-market interventions which would ordinarily not surface in the atmosphere of lasses faire capitalism customarily .
It should not be surprising that in 2012 a leader of the ruling Conservative Party of Britain Prime Minister David Cameron took a decision to formally stir up public discourse and corporate compassion for the cut of excessive salaries of executives. The few top-notch who earned sums disproportionate with the risk they took or face in their jobs. While his outcry applied generally his main target was the extremes in London`s financial sector.
His posture imposed the necessary non-market pressure on wages in the private sector. Surprisingly under a Conservative Party power grip wages and prices would not be left to the market to celebrate the surge. The laissez faire temperament of the Developed world could not tolerate skewed income distribution consistent with market capitalism which was creating excessive disparities with the likelihood of fermenting social instability characteristic of some parts of Europe in 2012.
While the toxic excess faced a clamp-down in Europe in my country the elicit greed was being celebrated in the mining industry by those who faced no proportionate risk in their jobs. The mining industry at its executive floor has gone through phases whose results were augmenting historical wage disparities between black and white, ordinary miner and the executive, men and women, and last but not least the fit and the ailing in the vicious mining industry.
The overall effect has been the general declines in black mineworkers’ living standards across the mining sectors and the largely budding category of the working poor. What they earn has not bailed them out from the manacles of higher prices of food, education, transport, and etc. These realities spurn the demand for better wages by mineworkers.
Inevitably linked to this is a struggle against deprivation and marginalization in terms of mining salary scales. The demands for better wages are a matter of survival and not excess for ordinary mineworkers who get paltry pay to bankroll flamboyant jet travels for mining Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).
The mining executives have consistently been priced lavishly in compensation . For example Mike Cutifani the CEO of Anglo Gold Ashanti `s total remuneration amounted to R43 million in 2012. Effectively he earned round R117 000 per day for 366 days. Gold Fields` Nick Holland earned the sum of R45.3 million in 2012 while the average mineworker earned below R70 000pa in the context of earning either R4 300 or R5600 pm in the same companies.
Gill Marcus, the Governor of South African Reserve Bank criticized high executive salaries three years ago and argued that “the tone is set by bonuses and executive pay”. This thin layer of the top notch pocket millions of emolument individually while the workers receive despicable stipend for their sweat and sometimes blood as they routinely navigate the treacherous underground for precious mettles like gold.
Nonetheless mineworkers graciously demand 15% increase for themselves and between R7- 8 000 for specific group of the workforce. This is still minuscule versus the endemic executive loot yet the assassin-proprietor establishment still pleads poverty.
Whether these demands amount to the alleged 60% demand for wage increase by mineworkers means nothing compared to 165% gain of basic salary received by former Anglo Chief Executive Cynthia Carroll in 2011 while her workers were hoodwinked into to settling for less than R6 000 a month in 2011 .
The cutting of jet expenses by the likes of Mike Cutifani is not being done to prop-up the thin pockets of the struggling employees but to benefit shareholders who have instructed CEOs to resist double digit or face dismissal should they concede.
The sinful contrast characteristic of this killing and dehumanizing industry where the exploited in addition to their state of financial strangulation agonize from silicosis, TB, HIV AIDS, and divided families. We know that those with this compromised physical state will face the job culling or coercive severance packages which massively currently constitute mining corporate dictatorship.
The employers are battle-ready to resist demands for above-inflation wage increases but willing to finance the potential losses in gold production which could be a result of workers strike should the current facilitated CCMA process fail between the Chamber and the unions.
This expensive battle readiness meant to sustain the apartheid wage gap which was constructed out of the symbiotic relationship between mining capital and the apartheid state. Why not use the money allocated to stem out potential effects of production loss to settle for better wages?
Regrettably the wage gap in the mining industry has class, race, and gender nuances in an industry that is impervious to the desperate gallops of transformation. The Chamber of Mines has become a statistical master in wheeler-dealing to frustrate any consequential change and the consistently suppressed wages of mineworkers are part of this endurance in keeping the gap yawning belligerently between the mine executive and the rock-driller.
The R5 600 wage for mineworkers has created an ugly sense of deprivation and marginalization almost twenty years after democracy and this threatens political instability and economic uncertainty where investors through unbundling processes are moving out.
It is extremely important to subordinate the current wage scales for progressive appraisal for both surface and underground workers which is R4, 350 and R5 600 respectively and well inconsiderate for the mining breadwinners. The double digit increase will partly ameliorate social and economic inequality and importantly it will endorse mineworker`s right to quality life.
A pre-emptive call for rejection of double digit increase by shareholders prior to workers tabling their demands is negotiating in bad faith and the already tabled pitiful counter-offer of 4 to 5% by the Chamber of Mines is a belligerent connivance galvanizing even the cowards amongst the workers to bow for total war. The time for a decent work and living wage wrings timely loud.
The logical conclusion of war between those galvanized by hunger and those mobilized by greed is socio-economic commotion. The aspirant developmental state would be forced to come out of the corner of adjudication status given the looming national elections. It will be forced to derail though not completely stop consequential norm of job culling which is used to maintain cutting edge executive salaries.
The workers need organized and consistent social solidarity. An institutional intervention and not spontaneous partisan posture in drilling the quest for the freeze on executive excess to prop up low base earnings. The lone voices of progressive Marcus and conservative Cameroon also insufficient inspirational institutions in the seemingly patiently orchestrated implosion by the captains of industry.
Given the belligerent attitude by the employers in the construction, energy and mining sectors in resolving to give nothing above inflation the quest for double digit by the workers will surely be subordinated to a street war out of the boardroom. The immorality of executive excess must face its taste of street warfare and the imperative of better pay for those who daily face the risk of death or paralysis as part of occupational hazards must appeal to the sobriety of South Africans black and white, men and women.
The children from the distant lands of the bundus and the spoiled brads of the metropolitan life must still find this industry as a hospitable option in the package of occupational priorities through transformation. But is the tide right to make this happen in earnest? I rest my case, you be the judge.
TANKISO MIKE FAFULI
National Union of Mineworkers
Tel: 011 377 2000