Mining boss calls for a Codesa

2012-08-25 18:00

The chief executive of the ­Chamber of Mines has asked the ANC to consider calling an economic Codesa in the wake of the Marikana massacre.

Bheki Sibiya told City Press such a gathering must include all 23 sectors of the economy “to conceive and conclude a plan to effectively deal with the evil triplets of unemployment, poverty and inequality”.

Asked whether South African mine workers are underpaid, Sibiya said: “The Chamber of Mines is confident that the wages and other terms and conditions of employment that the chamber’s members pay their employees compare very favourably to that of other labour-intensive industries such as civil engineering, construction, metal and engineering, retail and ­agriculture.”

What happened at Marikana is tragic and there are “clearly issues which need to be addressed and addressed urgently”, Sibiya said. “We believe that Lonmin is making this a priority.”

There was a time when mine workers were paid poorly in South Africa, Sibiya says, but over the past two decades there has been a “consistent and significant ­improvement in the wages and other terms and conditions of ­employment of mine workers”.

This has happened through wage negotiations with the trade unions in the mining industry.

“Today, workers earn wages that compare extremely favourably to that of other labour-intensive ­industries.

Mine workers’ basic wages are, as a rule, more than the basic wages paid by other labour-intensive industries.

“In addition, mine workers also earn production bonuses which could easily amount to an additional 50% of their basic pay.

They are also paid either a living-out ­allowance or housing allowance if they choose not to live in mine ­accommodation. These allowances range from R1 520 to R4 000 per month.”

Sibiya says mine workers are ­also paid a so-called holiday leave allowance which in essence amounts to a thirteenth cheque when they go on leave.

“Chamber companies also ­contribute up to 15% of basic pay towards retirement funds and employees either receive completely free healthcare or the companies contribute between R700 and R800 per month towards medical aid funds.”

Asked if the industry is afraid of new unions, like the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), Sibiya said: “The mining industry is an industry with proper industrial relations ­structures in place, be it at company level or at central level under the Chamber of Mines.

If a trade union approaches a mining company and it can prove that it meets the recognition criteria for organisational rights or even for bargaining rights, then the company will respect the fact that the union has met the set criteria and will engage with it, provided that it is understood by all that there are labour laws in place that everyone needs to respect and adhere to.”

An industry source told City Press that Amcu appealed to “less educated mining workers” who felt the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was no longer fighting their battles in the workplace.

He said Amcu organised quietly behind the NUM’s back and only presented employers with membership affiliation once it had ­recruited a significant number of workers.

This often caught the NUM unawares and employers were forced to change bargaining arrangements in the mines in favour of the NUM to ensure that it retained its numerical majority.

Lesiba Seshoka, the NUM spokesperson, confirmed that the NUM and ­Amcu would appear before the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration this week, where membership at Implats will be verified.

Seshoka alleged that some of the NUM’s members had been intimidated into joining Amcu.


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