The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) will be engaging in nationwide industrial action in terms of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act. This will include a series of protest marches in Pretoria, Polokwane, Durban and Welkom. The marches will culminate in the handing over of a memorandum to officials of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).

Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act gives the right to trade union formations to engage in protected industrial action regarding socio-economic matters which are of broader public and class interest.

On 29 August 2017 AMCU filed a section 77 notice to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). This notice cited the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) as the respondent.

It highlighted a series of regulatory shortcomings on the side of the DMR. AMCU showed how these regulatory failures led to a variety of socio- economic ills such as unemployment, poverty and inequality in the South African society. These three core challenges, we argued, are made even worse by the mass retrenchments of the past years and specifically during the latter part of 2017.

The mining sector directly employs around 500 000 people, while it is responsible for the indirect livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, if not millions more. Mining contributes around 8% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the South African economy. We have lost around 50 000 mining jobs between 2012 and 2015, and last year’s losses just added to these shocking figures.

Popular research has shown that one salary in the mining sector, actually represents between five and ten livelihoods of spouses and family members dependent on said salary. We can all do the calculations of the real effect of job losses in the mining sector! And, if we don’t do something quickly, it looks like more is yet to come…

In our notice letter we included to following demands to the DMR:

  1. Ensure stricter enforcement of the Social and Labour Plan (SLP) objective to “promote and advance the social and economic welfare of all South Africans”;
  2. Do an independent audit of the Annual SLP Reports submitted by mining companies;
  3. Provide clearer guidelines for implementing the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), including but not limited to the establishment and functioning of Future Forums, as well as re-skilling and Human Resource Development (HRD) strategies;
  4. Setting stricter requirements regarding the notice to DMR in terms of section 52 of the MPRDA, specifically relating to issues such as:

    a. Required deadlines for the submission of section 52 notices to the DMR, such as a 90-day deadline to complete section 52 processes before any other process can be embarked upon, including downsizing and retrenchment in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA);

  1. Providing specific resources to all stakeholders, including organised labour, to benefit and participate in the verification of technical information regarding the sustainability and profitability claims made by mining companies; and
  2. Requiring full disclosure of possible acquisitions of mining operations before or during the section 52 process.
  1. Performing an independent audit of Future Forums;
  2. Ensuring the implementation of the commitments made at the Mining Phakisa; and
  3. Fast-tracking research and development studies on the possible economic opportunities in expanding the mineral beneficiation and manufacturing sectors.

It is important to note that these marches form part of a larger socio- economic protest. We are protesting about things that affect everybody in South Africa. We seek to put demands before the DMR to ensure that the MPRDA is enforced.

The DMR must look at their human resources such as inspectors. We need more inspectors and they need to be paid market-related salaries so that they are not poached by mining houses to work as safety officers.

Failure to enforce the MPRDA also causes frustration in the communities, which leads to confrontation and absolute violence. It is exactly because of such failures, that a bus was set alight at Lonmin on 23 November 2017, when one of our members were burnt to ashes. The same happened in May last year, when members of the community were clear that these protests were the result of mining companies not investing enough in surrounding communities.

However, the DMR failed to resolve the matter with AMCU and a deadlock was reached at NEDLAC on 9 November 2017. NELAC issued a certificate of non-resolution on 17 November 2017, and AMCU has decided to start its nationwide industrial action with a series of marches on 20 March 2018.

We are here today to announce that the protest marches will be four in total. The main march will be to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and we will mobilise our members to also march to the Regional DMR Offices in Polokwane, Welkom and Durban.

President Joseph Mathunjwa will be leading the march in Pretoria, while members of the National Executive Committee will lead the other marches.

AMCU will be addressing the members before handing over a memorandum of demands to the Minister of Mineral Resources and his officials at regional offices. We have already notified the office of the Minister and his Regional Managers.

We call upon all AMCU members to join us in this nationwide protest action. Our members cannot be disciplined for not being at work, as this is regarded as protected industrial action in terms of the Labour Relations Act. The normal rule of “no work, no pay” will apply.

Members of the media are invited to attend and cover all our marches so that we may together highlight the socio-economic problems caused by lacking regulation. We trust that you will help us to advocate and inform the communities about these very important issues that affect our society every day.

For interviews: President Joseph Mathunjwa (076-346-6402)