President Mathunjwa's Speeches

AImpala job cuts

18 November 2018

Members of the Media, Colleagues, Comrades,

We are here today taking cognisance that we are eleven days away from the day that changed the labour relations landscape of South Africa. The state, colluding with capital massacred 34 mineworkers fighting for Economic Emancipation.

It is evident that it was not a mistake to commit such genocide against its own people. This is emphasised by the continuous abuse of the LRA to massacre the livelihoods of breadwinners by means of retrenchment.

We are shocked by the insensitivity of capital for prioritising profit at the expense of the nation, as is evident in the latest announced job blood bath at Impala Platinum in Rustenburg.
The sad reality is that, if workers are not killed in mining accidents, they are still confronted by the wrath of greedy mining bosses who will do everything in their power to retain their huge salaries and bonuses.

But, this is not new… In the past two years alone, mining houses have announced a massive 25 707 jobs to be destroyed. Through tough negotiations and many long sessions, we have been able to limit forced retrenchments to 4 892.

In 2013, Anglo Platinum announced 14 000 job cuts under former Minister of Mineral Resources, Ms Susan Shabangu. AMCU had to strike for a month to reduce that number to 3000, which ended up being voluntary retrenchment and early retirement. Many of them were recalled later.
Employers own the means of production and employees can only offer their labour in return for wages. Our work is regarded as a mere cost and history bears witness of many cases of exploitation in this regard.

That is why we have labour laws! Labour laws are meant to address the power imbalance between bosses and workers. These laws basically increase and enhance the role of the state. The state must regulate industry and it must regulate the relationship between employer and employee.
Retrenchments are regulated by means of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. According to section 189, employers have the obligation to consult with employees and trade unions before cutting jobs. The main goals of this consultative process are to look at ways to avoid the retrenchments and lessen the impact on employees.

AMCU is on record to bring many innovative avoidance measures to the table, and some of these include internal transfers of employees, a moratorium on contractors performing core mining work as well as Voluntary Separation Packages (VSPs).

A VSP is, as the name suggests, a process whereby employees can volunteer to be retrenched and pursue other avenues. Even though this is possibly the least preferred way of avoiding forced retrenchments, it does often take the sting out of a no-fault dismissal like retrenchment.
Still, Comrades and Colleagues, we must not fool ourselves. Losing your job is a harrowing experience – especially in South Africa today with its unemployment rate rising to 27,2% in the second quarter of this year. As we all know, this is also by the narrow definition of unemployment and real unemployment stands much higher. Recent statistics in this regard stand at 37%.

Impact of Retrenchments
A second but equally important consideration is the knock-on effects of these job cuts. 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. This could mean up to 130 000 people directly affected by the looming retrenchments, and probably millions more being affected indirectly.

According to the most recent Census of Mining Report in 2015 the size of the mining workforce was estimated at 490 146 individuals. 41% of these individuals were employed in the Platinum Group Metals. Over the period, platinum group metal ore lost a total of 7 800 jobs, meaning that the recent Lonmin and now the Impala retrenchments are actually the most significant in history.

AMCU’s Section 77 Socio-Economic March
AMCU still criticises government for not taking a lead during these times. During AMCU’s section 77 Socio-Economic March held in four cities on 20 March 2018, our demands included:
1. Stricter enforcement of the Social Labour Plans, especially regarding Human Resource Development and Managing of Downscaling and Retrenchment.
2. The establishment of clearer guidelines regarding the implementation of the MPRDA, with regards to Future Forums;
3. Setting stricter requirements regarding the notice to DMR in terms of section 52. We called for a 90-day period to pass between section 52 being issued before section 189 consultations can commence.
4. Fast-tracking research and development studies into mineral beneficiation and manufacturing, so that we can create new jobs.
5. All mines in care and maintenance must be nationalised, in order to create sustainable jobs.
Government has yet to fully respond to our demands of 20 March 2018. We met with Minister Gwede Mantashe a month ago and he promised to send us the formal response, but nothing has been received yet

Trade and Industrial Policy
We call on the State to review all our trade and industrial policies. The focus should be to develop our own industry and protect our own economy. This will save jobs and create new jobs.
We have seen the America First approach by President Trump which has continued to create jobs for the American economy with 140 000 recorded in the last quarter. South Africans require leadership, and it is in these difficult times that great men and great women take their place in history. Let our legacy be that of saving and changing people’s lives.
SSME’s in our country must be owned and run by South Africans. SSME’s must be regulated for our benefit, so that we can ensure greater economic emancipation of South Africans.

There is general consensus in the mining sector that one (1) mining job in South Africa supports three (3) in Europe. This is a result of greater innovation and advanced technology that beneficiates our mineral commodities. The skills developed in European Universities are focused on how to beneficiate South African minerals. However, the skills we develop in our country are only limited to extracting activities with no downstream capacity to value add our own commodities. Structurally, there are numerous limitations that have sustained the drive towards this calamitous destination where workers are now carrying the responsibilities for poor policy and regulatory choices.

Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. It will transform the way we do business and the way we trade, including the nature of work as we know it today.

The mining industry has been seized with optimisation and mechanisation discourse for a while now. It is becoming clear, through heightened retrenchment efforts, that the sector is bent on changing mining systems to use lean workforce towards hyper profits.

With continuous improvement in technology, there will be new machines which will required skilled workers. Therefore, the threat to labour-intensive work is upon us.

We are putting a proposition as AMCU for an unemployment insurance benefit that will guarantee minimum compensation to all workers that lose their jobs to machines derived from the profits produced by those machines as a social protection and social security measure.

AMCU’s Role in Economic Emancipation
AMCU cannot be blamed for job losses. We live in the most unequal society. AMCU should be congratulated for attempting to closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
After the dawn of democracy in 1994, the main changes in the lives of mineworkers have been brought about by AMCU, and through the five-month strike our struggle managed to ensure that the lowest-earning mineworker is now at least standing at R11500 per month.

This is radical economic transformation – tenders are not! Radical economic transformation is to give people the means to feed themselves. Government is feeding 17 million people with grants – including the youth which should be at school to build our economy.

What Government Must Do
Government must create demands for its own minerals. The Highveld Steel manufacturing plant, close to Kusile Power Station, was closed down in 2016. One wonders why government never nationalised this resource, in order to create jobs and sustain communities. One wonders how many tonnes of steel was used in the construction of Kusile and Medupi. Ironically all this steel was imported from China. How short-sighted can one be?

One has no doubt that our state is a capitalist state, in that the state has no control over its economy. This has been proved by 1) proposed amendments to the LRA to make it easier for capital to abuse the working class, 2) the lack of emphasis in the Mine Health and Safety Act in protecting the workers and making the mining bosses accountable for the deaths of workers, 3) the continuous enrichment of a small political elite at the expense of the broader community.

Looking Forward
AMCU will participate in the retrenchment consultations at Impala, and we will do our best to save as many jobs as possible. We will spare no resource in our struggle to protect the livelihoods of mineworkers.

We hope that the company will come to this consultation process with a view of following the legal test of joint consensus seeking process and not being positional in engaging this matter. All the parties have rights in law and recourse should they have objections to procedural or substantive fairness of the process. We will closely monitor this and retain our rights to do everything possible to exercise the mandate of our members including industrial action where necessary.
Otherwise, we will see all of you, members of the media, at our annual Marikana Massacre Commemoration next week.
I thank you.

President Joseph Mathunjwa