Hundreds of Numsa metalworkers’ union members at the Impala Platinum Mine in Freedom Park near Rustenburg are on indefinite strike against exploitation by three companies contracted to supply services to the mine.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) says that thousands of contract workers at the mine are paid a fraction of what permanent employees earn and accuse the companies of refusing to acknowledge the union as a bargaining agent.
Union leaders were in court on Tuesday morning following an application to interdict the strike, while hundreds of workers gathered at the hill, with still more being bussed in to join the strike.
Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said that the union expects 4,000 workers to participate in the strike.
Hlubi-Majola said workers at Newrak, Reagetswe and Triple M Mining are paid far less than their counterparts for doing the same job.
The union has submitted wage demands but the contractors refuse to engage with them.
The union also condemned the recent court action.
‘Numsa condemns Reagetswe for attempting to undermine the right to strike with this frivolous court action,’ Hlubi-Majola said.
At the Labour Court on Tuesday, Numsa had to lay out its case for wanting about 4,000 of its members, employed by three mining contractors, to embark on the strike at Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) Rustenburg mines.
One of the contractor companies had filed an interdict application with the Labour Court in a bid to prevent its employees from striking.
Numsa said that, for example, an Implats rock drill operator (RDO) earns a minimum R17,000 a month, with added benefits such as medical aid and provident fund, while a contractor-employed RDO earns not more than R5,000 a month, with no benefits to choose from.
‘It is utterly disgraceful that workers are expected to risk their lives underground for peanuts,’ said Numsa in its statement on June 21.
Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the contract companies grossly exploit workers and ‘Impala Platinum has shamefully washed its hands off the situation’.
She said: ‘They get no benefits and no medical aid even though they risk their lives to mine platinum. They do the same work but get paid less.
‘Can you imagine how hard life must be for them when they are expected to survive on such meagre earnings?’
Hlubi-Majola emphasised that labour brokers operate like modern slave traders.
She concluded that the members should be made permanent employees.
In 2018, Numsa won a Constitutional Court decision that confirmed that workers who work for labour brokers for over three months should be made permanent employees with the same salary and benefits as permanent workers.
‘The majority of our members have been working at Implats for years and this kind of employment is an attack on their dignity,’ she said.
‘It relegates them to a permanent state of poverty.
‘These people are creators of wealth and are responsible for the obscene profits of the company. They should live dignified lives.’
Hlubi-Majola added that they served all these companies with a notice to strike and have submitted wage demands, which they did not want to engage in.
Reagetswe Mining Group and Triple M Mining have been ordered by the labour court at various dates to conduct verification to confirm that Numsa was the majority union, but they have refused to adhere to this court order.
Triple M Mining was ordered last week, while Reagetswe Mining Group was ordered last August.
‘We meet the threshold and workers have chosen Numsa as their union of choice. Management must stop interfering in the constitutional right of workers to choose which union will represent them,’ Hlubi-Majola said.
‘Once we have secured organisational rights, our members want to conclude a collective agreement based on other additional demands, including wage increases and benefits,’ she added.
- The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has announced that it is using President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to increase politicians’ salaries by 3% to push for a 10% pay hike for public servants.
Ramaphosa, this week, accepted the recommendations of the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers to increase the salaries of his deputy David Mabuza, ministers and their deputies, premiers, MECs, MPs and MPLs by 3%.
Mabuza, National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo will earn over R2.91 million a year, up from R2.82m.
According to the determination, the lowest paid politicians in national and provincial government will be MPs in both houses of Parliament with R1.17m, which increased from R1.13m, while MPLs will see their pay improve to R1.13m from R1.1m.
The move has angered Nehawu, which is among the unions demanding a 10% increase across the board on the cost-of-living adjustment at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).
‘We call on the president and his government to do the same for public service workers and pay them their salary increment, as per the tabled demands at the PSCBC,’ the union said.
Nehawu complained that since the beginning of the current public service wage negotiations, public service unions had been frustrated by the government at the PSCBC as the state claims it has no money.
‘There is absolutely no justification why public office bearers should be getting a remuneration increase, especially with all challenges confronting the country,’ Nehawu said.
‘Instead, they should be putting their energies and focus on getting the country on the road to recovery.’
The union continued: ‘What is further infuriating about this increase in the remuneration for public office bearers is that the government has been persistent with austerity programmes and reversing the gains of workers by mainly focusing on freezing salaries of public servants in order to reduce the public sector wage bill whilst politicians and judges are to receive salary increases which public servants were denied.’
Trade union body Cosatu said it was disappointed with the politicians’ salary increases and described the move as a ‘tone deaf and embarrassing decision’.
- The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has expressed concern over the shortage of medical professionals in the country, saying this is straining efforts to provide quality health care.
SAMA says what is pivotal among the problems, is the delay in the annual placement of interns.
It was revealed recently in a parliamentary debate that the doctor-patient ratio is one doctor per 3198 patients.
The association’s Dr Akhtar Hussain said on Tuesday: ‘The National Department of Health and Internship Community Service Programme (ICSP) failed to place our interns last year and previous year as well.
‘Previously, as the South African Medical Association, we, as a stakeholder, have been helping the department of health on how to place interns and how to allocate community doctors.
‘But recently they are not having multi-stakeholder meetings and they’re having very poor planning.’