Eskom, Mining Charter at heart of saving mining - unions

Unions in the mining industry on Tuesday gave Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy their feedback on improving the state of the mining sector as well as energy supply in the country.

The committee was holding a day of engagements with organised labour in the mining and energy sectors. The most topical issues that unions raised were the Mining Charter, and the role of Eskom in creating a conducive environment for industry.

National Union of Mineworkers president Joseph Montisetse told the committee that unbundling Eskom without a clear plan or discussing the business case motivations with labour was foolhardy.

"Countries such as Zimbabwe [took] a Cabinet decision last year to integrate their electricity industry after a dismal failure of their unbundling model over many years. Governance remains a serious challenge," said Montisetse.

Montisetse told the committee that the board of Eskom should be appointed by Parliament and not the minister. He also called for the shareholder compact signed by the Department of Public Enterprise and Eskom to be made public to allow scrutiny and accountability.

Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis told the committee that the union welcomed the appointment of Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe, as well as his iteration of the Mining Charter.

"The Mantashe version is superior to that of former minister Zwane. Massive risk shift drop is far larger than the drop in fatalities. Performance bonuses are pushed hard, and we don’t want workers risking their lives to the mine can achieve a target," said Du Plessis.

Du Plessis told the committee that it could trust unions as a social partner, as organised labour were forming coalitions to fight back against arbitrary thresholds and unilateral decisions in the labour market.

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