The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) demanded from the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to establish a task team to coordinate the response to Covid-19. The Union demands that this task team focuses on developing national standards for managing the coronavirus in the sector, including the introduction of enhanced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to workers and minimum standards regulating the identification and mitigation of the associated risks. AMCU reminds the DMRE of its regulatory role, especially when it comes to balancing the interests of employers and that of employees.
AMCU today wrote to the Minister of Mining and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe to table its demands on how to deal with the Covid-19 coronavirus in the mining and energy sector. Part of the substantial submissions by AMCU includes a demand for the establishment of a task team to address the current Covid-19 pandemic.
AMCU proposed that this task team should consist of the Chief Inspector of Mines, Mr David Msiza, as well as representatives of the Minerals Council and registered trade unions. The task team must also receive technical advice from the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) as well as the Minister of Health, Mr Zweli Mkhize.
The main focus of the task team would be to develop a national Code of Practice (COP) of managing Covid-19 in the sector, which can then be customised at company level. This national COP must then, as AMCU demands, be gazetted to become a regulation and a safety standard for the sector.
“As AMCU, we will not support any ramp-up of operations at mines before these regulations are agreed upon and gazetted accordingly,” said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “We can simply not afford to let mineworkers die due to a lacking and uncoordinated approach to this pandemic by the individual mines”, Mathunjwa added. “It is also not only mineworkers who will be affected if Covid-19 is not contained properly, it will also affect the medical employees at mines, the communities as well as South African society at large”, he said.
In its submissions, AMCU reminds the Minister of the rights of workers in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA) to refuse to work in dangerous conditions. It sets out the steps to be followed in terms of the Act to address the mitigation of risk before work can be continued. AMCU proposes that a specific and enhanced standard of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) be made compulsory for all mining operations, in combination with strategies to mitigate risk and manage identified infections.
“We appeal to the DMRE to step up to the plate and fulfil its role as regulator of the mining and energy sectors”, said Mathunjwa. “It has never been more important for the Department to manage the conflicting interests of workers and employers. It is time to work together to ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector. We believe our proposals are both realistic and attainable, and we trust that the DMRE will see the sense of it all”, Mathunjwa concluded.