Village Main Reef strike continues as NUM digs in over pension payments

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Two workers in an underground mine.
Two workers in an underground mine.
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  • The National Union of Mineworkers claims Village Main Reef stopped their pension contributions to the Mineworkers Provident Fund.
  • NUM met with Village Main Reef CEO Jeff Dong on Wednesday to discuss the impasse, but to no avail.
  • While NUM says the company is truant with pensions, retrenchment packages and funeral cover, Village Main Reef says it is up to date.

While the underground sit-in strike at Village Main Reef's Kopanang Mine in Matlosana by the National Union of Mineworkers has ended, the union's strike at the mine continues after a meeting with management on Wednesday failed to resolve the deadlock on pension contributions.

NUM claims that Village Main Reef stopped their pension contributions to the Mineworkers Provident Fund, despite the company making usual deductions from workers' salaries. The Mineworkers Provident Fund is a pension fund for mineworkers, with about 100 000 members and R28 billion in assets.

The union began sit-in strike demonstrations underground, claiming VMR deducted pension provisions from salaries without paying contributions, didn't pay packages to retrenched employees, and failed to cover funeral costs of deceased employees covered by the fund.

It met with Village Main Reef CEO Jeff Dong on Wednesday to discuss the impasse. Other than the underground sit-ins being ended, NUM is still striking for their demands to be met, but the company insists it paid the required contributions.

NUM president Joseph Montisetse said the meeting had brought no resolution.

"We met with the CEO and he said they are paying the provident fund, but there is no evidence that they have put on the table to say they are paying. The other issue is that they said they have paid some retrenched workers, but not others," he said.

Montisetse said VMR had asked for the names of deceased workers, to fund their funeral cover, but the union maintained that this was information already in the company’s possession. He said the issues remained unresolved.

"Workers are now striking on the surface. Management has just suspended 850 workers that were striking underground. Some workers were not underground, but joined the strike. The mine is currently not working, and all members are on strike," he said.

Montisetse said they wer still demanding that the company pay provident fund contributions, compensate funeral costs of deceased workers who did not access their funeral cover, and pay packages to retrenched workers.

Village Main Reef lawyer Nick Veltman said the sit-in strike had ended late on Wednesday evening, with workers involved placed on suspension pending investigation.

"Employees involved were suspended on Thursday by the company with full pay pending investigations of damage to property, endangering health and safety of employees, interference with health and safety equipment and disobeying as well as failure to carry out lawful instruction," said Veltman.

He said charges would be part of an investigation and, depending on its outcome, disciplinary proceedings would be initiated. He said the company maintained that it was up to date with employees' membership contributions.

"The company has received confirmation that it is, indeed, in good standing from the affiliated pensions where it relates to its pension fund contributions," Veltman said.

Veltman said the ongoing, strike was unprotected.

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