Mining Industry stakeholders to ink accord on July 3

JOHANNESBURG: (By Richard Kerry)– Mining companies, trade unions and government departments will meet on July 3 to sign a framework aimed at rooting out unrest and restoring investor confidence in the sector.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said he was confident that the framework, which was produced to ensure that all parties in the mining sector – including trade unions – commit to towing the line and adhering to labour laws and regulations, would be effective once finalised into a document.

Responding to a question while interacting with businessmen at the Alexander Forbes discussion forum in Sandton, Motlanthe said after he met with role players in the mining industry in Pretoria on June 14, a draft framework document was being finalised and would be presented to the same parties to review and sign.

“The framework provides for the stabilisation of the mining industry. Firstly, we must do away with violence and intimidation. We must ensure that everybody works and operates within house rules,” he said.

In May, President Jacob Zuma asked Motlanthe to lead discussions in the mining industry, with a view to stabilising the environment ahead of annual wage talks and calming investor fears over labour unrest.

The industry remains the biggest contributor to the country’s growth domestic product (GDP), and unrest in the industry has led to stoppages in mining production that have hampered growth, according to recent figures released by Statistics South Africa and the SA Reserve Bank.

Tensions in the mining industry reached boiling point in August last year when an illegal strike broke out at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg in the North West, which led to 44 people losing their lives during a stand-off between police and protesters.

A judicial commission of inquiry, set up by Zuma, is currently underway to probe the circumstances that led to the tragedy.

Motlanthe said the root cause of the Marikana strike was when mining companies offered a “living out allowance” of R1 800 to mineworkers. This is an allowance paid to mineworkers who do not reside in hostels offered by the mine.

He said mineworkers moved out of hostels into informal settlements at the mine to gain access to this allowance, which ended up not being enough, leaving them vulnerable to pyramid schemes and loan sharks.

He said another problem was trade union shop stewards doing business with the mine and neglecting their duties to service their members, making mineworkers open to leaving unions and forming working committees to negotiate salary increments outside bargaining structures.

Motlanthe said the framework seeks to undo these effects and to rope in mineworkers and other role players back into the boardroom to commit to playing by the rules.

“That’s why today we are trying to get them back into the house so that they could all operate and co-exist inside the house and follow the house rules. That is the task of our inter-ministerial committee.”

Motlanthe said he was confident that the framework would, once signed, be effective as it would contribute towards resolving issues “upfront”.

He also said he was confident that all parties would sign the framework.

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