South Africa’s beleaguered mining industry is in danger of losing almost 12,000 jobs: an employment vacuum the country can ill afford. As of Monday, a new plan signed by the industry, government and the unions won’t guarantee that the jobs will be saved. If further retrenchments are inevitable, however, the plan may ensure that life is a little easier for laid-off mineworkers. But is it enough to solve the problems of an industry in crisis?
The mineral resources minister, the Chamber of Mines and union representatives all appeared to be in sunny spirits following Monday’s signing of an agreement aimed at halting the haemorrhaging of jobs from the mining industry.
Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said there was every reason to be hopeful that the plan, titled “Leaders’ Declaration – Mining Industry Commitment to Save Jobs and Ameliorate the Impact of Job Losses”, would be implemented with the cooperation of all parties. Trade union Solidarity’s general secretary, Gideon du Plessis, told eNCA he had a “good feeling” about a plan he described as “revolutionary”. The Chamber of Mines put out a statement affirming that its members were “fully committed” to the process.
Absent was the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which had participated in weeks of negotiations but did not sign Monday morning’s agreement. Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa had previously requested, and received, a postponement on signing the agreement because more time was needed to consult with members. Though the union has reportedly indicated that it still intends to sign, the decision not to do so at the same time as the other stakeholders raised some eyebrows.
Du Plessis told eNCA the Amcu representative at negotiations “seemingly … got a phonecall from outside the room from somebody instructing him not to sign, and it was a big disappointment”. Last month, Mathunjwa suggested that retrenchments in mining were aimed at weakening Amcu.
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