South African NUM has threatened mass strikes over planned sackings!

SAFTU members at their May Day rally in Johannesburg

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa has threatened mass strikes against the mining sector over planned sackings.

Several mining companies have issued redundancy notices to employees, with other mine workers already laid off.

Speaking after COSATU’s May Day rally in Potchefstroom in the North West, NUM President, Dan Balepile, said they will march to Sibanye Stillwater to strike over the planned retrenchments.

He said: ‘It is very much unfortunate what Sibanye is doing. It’s not only limited to Sibanye. We’re counting now thousands and thousands of members that are already out of work.

‘Together with other unions, we’re embarking on mass action on the 11th, and we’ll be marching to Sibanye to show them that we’re not happy about what is happening. If they don’t listen to that, we will apply to march throughout the country.

‘The NUM has also criticised mining companies for failing to put safety measures in place to avert fatalities during underground accidents.

‘We still lament unfavourable working conditions, low wages and constant sackings in different sectors.

‘The country’s high unemployment rate also remains a key concern for both the employed and the unemployed.

Meanwhile, The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) released its May Day statement on Wednesday.

The statement said: ‘The 2024 May Day is convened under the theme: ‘Commemorating May Day on the 30th anniversary of democracy amid worsening unemployment, inequality, and poverty.’

‘In 1994, the first democratic elections ushered a liberal democratic dispensation.

‘For many workers who committed their lives to abolishing the apartheid regime, 1994 was to transform their lives politically and socio-economically.

‘Politically, the lives of the black working class have immensely transformed since 1994.

‘Every adult from the age of 16 is enjoying the right to vote in local and national elections.

‘Discriminatory laws in access to public education, health, and courts have been repealed.

‘Laws and policies have been enacted to create equality of opportunities and equality before the law.

‘Despite the political and legal progress and the in-roads made in the social provision of services, such as connectivity to the electricity grid, free housing and connectivity to a running water network, the socio-economic conditions have not improved to a satisfactory level.

‘In fact, gains made in the first decade are being reversed, including gains made during apartheid such as state ownership.

‘The inability to deliver a “better life for all” lies in the structure and character of our economy.

‘It lies in the two decades of rapid de-industrialisation of South Africa between 1990 and 2010, as concentrated capital responded to greater pressure from the working-class.

‘Newly freed from apartheid and pressured by cheaper products internationally, capitalists shut down half the country’s manufacturing capacity in especially labour-intensive clothing, textiles, footwear, appliances, and electronics.

‘De-industrialisation and the decline in manufacturing are best illustrated by the declining share of jobs and the plants that are lying fallow.

‘The share of employment declined by 309,000 from 1.4 million in 2005 to 1.09 million in 2021. Today, 22.5 per cent of the manufacturing capacity is not used.

‘Reflecting the decline in manufacturing, the manufacturing value added as a value of the GDP has declined from over 24 per cent in 1980 to 12.04 per cent in 2022.

‘The levels of investments in manufacturing are, more than a decade later, still below the levels of investments at the time of the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

‘This economic under-development has worsened unemployment, poverty, inequality, and crime crises.

‘The fiscal austerity measures have worsened the unpalatable conditions that capitalism has created.

‘In these multiple crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality, the social wage covered by the state becomes the reliable measure to save society.

‘However, South Africa’s social wage is pathetic.

‘The latest available data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which studies social spending in the world’s largest economies has South Africa’s share of GDP devoted to public social spending at 8 per cent, less than half that of Brazil, and a quarter that of Finland and France, among the main countries.

‘As a result of underspending, there has been a collapse of the public health system as well as a worsening crisis in the private health sector.

Austerity was obviously on the agenda in late February 2020 when, even in the face of a massive pandemic bearing down on South Africa, the Treasury cut health spending by 3.9 billion rands.

‘A few years earlier, the Treasury cut national-to-provincial health spending by 13 per cent in real terms.

‘SAFTU and its allies are demanding the immediate strengthening of the public health system, not further public-private or private – capacity building.

‘The priority focus should be on primary levels of care from households, to clinics, to district hospitals within the district health system.

‘As Covid-19 revealed, the state of the clinics and district hospitals are dire, and thousands of deaths could no doubt have been prevented with proper equipment and personnel deployed to the hardest-hit areas. SAFTU praised Cuban doctors who stepped in, saving many lives as a result of their long-term commitment to grassroots care and treatment.

‘Community health workers (CHWs) and nurses should be employed in sufficient numbers to provide primary care of a good standard without being overstressed.

‘They should be state run, as in Gauteng and recognised, accredited and employed formally by the health system for fair conditions of service and remuneration.

‘The CHW and nurses have a critical and fundamental role in the functioning of the NHI and therefore their participation in the decision-making on NHI implementation is crucial.

‘Our system of education is in crisis. There is insufficient funding, and poor infrastructure.

‘Our struggles domestically must linked with the struggles of the working class internationally. We stand in solidarity with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who are suffering from the imperialist-instigated conflict that has lasted for decades now. The battle for natural resources such as cobalt has created a perennial conflict that has led to millions of people displaced and dead.

‘Equally, we reaffirm our support to the Palestinian people who are facing an existential threat from Israeli racism and colonialism. The racist Israeli regime has amplified its genocidal campaigns starting on 08 October 2023, leading to the injury of more than 70,000 and the death of more than 34,000.

‘We further pledge our solidarity with the people of Capo Delgado, who are suffering from insurgent attacks created by the battle for deposits of liquefied natural gas; the people of Sudan whose conflict is centuries old, having been created by ancient colonial invasions; and the people of Burma whose conflict traces back to the British colonialism and fuelled by Cold War battle for spheres of influence.’