TO:  The Honourable Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Gwede Mantashe, and officials of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR),

 

INTRODUCTION

We, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), comprising close to two hundred thousand members in the mining, construction, manufacturing, transport, security and related sectors of our economy, have gathered today to engage in peaceful protest action to highlight our cause.

We have taken hands and marched for the plight of our comrades, the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs at the cruel hands of capitalist profits.  The bosses have always had the power, and the workers are always the targets of exploitation.

These nationwide marches are a result of the failure of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to meaningfully engage with AMCU at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).  This failure led to a deadlock and subsequently NEDLAC issued a certificate of non-resolution to AMCU, to embark on protected industrial action under the auspices of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act.

Employers own the means of production and employees can only offer their labour in return for wages.  Our work is regarded as a mere commodity and history bears witness of many cases of exploitation in this regard.  In more than a hundred years, the mining sector has not transformed.

The South African economy has experienced numerous structural constraints resulting in sluggish growth made worse by the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. The mining industry has been an anchor of the South African economy for many years driving growth in the primary sector.

However, over the years the sector has continued to shed jobs due to a contraction in labour absorption and labour intensity in pursuance of super profits. In 1987, the sector peaked with 760 000 jobs and by 2017, this number had gone down to less than 490 000 jobs.

In the past twenty (20) years, the sector has lost 270 000 jobs through various termination mechanisms related to retrenchments, incapacities and fatalities.  This is a direct attack on the labour movement, and it must be stopped to avoid further jobs blood baths.

The Freedom Charter, which was the blue print for our liberation, emphasised that the people shall benefit from the mineral wealth of this country. We learn from economics that one of the best redistributors of wealth in any economy is job creation which invariably stimulates aggregate demand through household incomes.

A contracting economy that is reducing employment levels contributes to economic exclusion and poverty.  The exclusion of the majority of South Africans in the economy works against inclusive growth and radical economic transformation. Therefore, job losses are economic losses and a matter of national interest.

There are many contributing factors to this current dilemma, such as internal and external constraints which hamper growth.

Internally, there is blatant lack of compliance with legislation, regulations, policies, codes and charters, with no repercussion. The South African labour legislative regime further allows companies to retrench workers, in order to maximise profit. Profit is therefore more important than workers.  Often labour is seen as a mere commodity and a statistic that can be shifted to balance the company books.  Capitalist bosses do not have an obligation to the nation to create and sustain jobs. They owe their allegiance to their directors and foreign investors.  They will do anything, including cutting down employment numbers in order to meet shareholder interests.

As a dispossessed class, we will continue to resist this type of legislative abuse which maximises profit at the expense of job security and socio-economic welfare.

Externally, we learn that one mining job in South Africa supports three jobs in Europe.  This is the direct result of our neoliberal economic policy stance that supports the exporting of raw materials, and therefore exporting jobs.  We have also failed to implement a meaningful industrial action plan, and our manufacturing sector has not grown enough to create labour-absorbing industries.

 

OUR DEMANDS

As a strategic stakeholder in the mining sector we wish to bring the following demands to the attention of 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:
    1. 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);
    2. Providing specific resources to all stakeholders, including organized labour, to benefit and participate in the verification of technical information regarding the sustainability and profitability claims made by mining companies; and
    3. Requiring full disclosure of possible acquisitions of mining operations before or during the section 52 process, so that stakeholders are aware of possible section 197 processes under way.
  5. Performing an independent audit of Future Forums;
  6. Ensuring the implementation of the commitments made at the Mining Phakisa;
  7. Fast-tracking research and development studies on the possible economic opportunities in expanding the mineral beneficiation and manufacturing sectors in South Africa.
  8. A quota system which will regulate the exports of raw materials, to facilitate industrialisation and beneficiation. This will force companies to limit their exports and invest in local manufacturing initiatives.
  9. The licences of all mines on care and maintenance must be revoked, and given to workers, communities and reputable black entrepreneurs.
  10. The championing of the Mining Beneficiation Strategy within the prism of the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) regime. The DMR needs to include within the Mining Charter dispensation as requirement for all Multi-National Corporations to bring beneficiation technology to the country and transfer their foreign operations to South Africa if they want to continue mining.
  11. Social and Labour Plans (SLPs) must be implemented concurrently when new operations commence, and this should be a condition for the issuing and retention of a mining licence.
  12. The Mining Charter must be legislated. This would mean that it is no longer a code of good practice under the BBBEE Act, but an act of parliament within the MPRDA dispensation. This will transform the sector and give greater ownership rights to workers who must be consulted in board decisions.
  13. Curtail industry malpractices such as transfer pricing and mis-invoicing which affects industry performance and job creation. The DMR needs to institute legislation that will stop illicit financial flows, which steal opportunities from South Africans in pursuance of super profits.
  14. We demand an urgent upscaling of skills transfer and reskilling initiatives, as part of a skills development revolution. This should focus on giving affected and displaced workers the necessary skills to be absorbed during the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  15. Providing a social security net for workers affected by retrenchments due to modernisation and mechanisation.

 

CONCLUSION

The South African labour market is under attack from monopoly capital that seeks to make super profits at all costs. They are prepared to cut their job numbers in order to make a profit, change or mechanise their operations and even outsource certain functions.

There is no patriotism in our business as thousands of workers are now either unemployed or under employed. There is therefore an urgent need for us to have a conversation on this issue as a country.

This protest action is just the beginning of a series of engagements with stakeholders, and we will continue our campaign to find immediate and practical solutions.

We therefore request a response from the DMR within the next seven (7) days, to our demands.

I hereby hand over this memorandum in front of AMCU members as witnesses to this submission.