Instead of abating, the jobs bloodbath in the mining sector is expected to worsen as more mining companies opt for worker retrenchments as a measure to deal with economic constraints.
Unions have proposed a moratorium on layoffs for a humane mechanism to be sought to resolve the crisis.
Both trade union federation Cosatu and the new South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) have expressed concern that the sector has haemorrhaged more than 70 000 workers since 2012.
It doesn’t end there, as more job losses are being announced regularly by mining firms.
The latest to shed jobs is Evander Mine in Mpumalanga, with 1 722 of the 1 812 workers facing retrenchment.
According to Saftu, which pledged solidarity with the workers, a Section 189(3) Labour Relations Act retrenchment notice was given to the National Union of Mineworkers by the employer, a subsidiary of Pan African Resources,. The company said the retrenchments were due to deteriorating and inadequate infrastructure, high operating costs such as rising electricity, labour costs and a low gold price.
Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the Mpumalanga economy was in danger due to pending retrenchments in the province.
He cited the uncertain future faced by workers at three Mpumalanga Gupta-owned mines: Optimum, Koornfontein and Brakfontein.
“Employees at all three [mines] are on strike after receiving no wages in February and their jobs are in the balance,” Vavi said.
This is in addition to the 12 600 jobs to be cut in the next three years by platinum giant Lonmin as announced in December, adding to the 1 100 positions shed earlier in 2017.
As if this were not enough, earlier the same year, AngloGold Ashanti said it would retrench 8 500 workers.
Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla put the figure even higher, saying the mining sector had shed more than 70 000 workers since 2012.
“What makes this so unacceptable is that the same year , the government reduced the company income tax from 34% to 28%, arguing that for companies to create jobs, raise salaries and invest more, they needed tax breaks. The mining sector has actually done the opposite,” Pamla said.
Cosatu had been calling for a moratorium on retrenchments. According to Pamla, retrenchments must be done humanely, where people were properly “eased out of employment with some semblance of dignity, including reskilling the workers”.
“The so-called fourth industrial revolution is accelerating mechanisation of the mining sector,” Pamla said. – firstname.lastname@example.org