Today's Labour News

newsThis news aggregator site highlights South African labour news from a wide range of internet and print sources. Each posting has a synopsis of the source article, together with a link or reference to the original. Postings cover the range of labour related matters from industrial relations to generalist human resources.

news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see summaries of our
selection of South African labour-related stories
that appeared since Friday, 2 January 2017.


MINING LABOUR

Beatrix miners rescued from underground after Eskom restores power early on Friday

BusinessLive reports that electrical power was restored to the Beatrix gold mine owned by Sibanye-Stillwater early on Friday morning, allowing the rescue of some 948 miners trapped underground since Thursday morning.  After the last of the miners were hoisted to the surface, Sibanye CE Neal Froneman said:  “The actions taken by management and decisions taken resulted in all of our employees returning safely to their families."  The mine in the Free State was paralysed by a power outage after a storm on Wednesday night knocked over a pylon supplying electricity to the mine and trapping 1,300 people underground.  Power was then restored to two shafts and 336 people were returned to surface.  Harmony Gold on Thursday provided three generators from the nearby Joel mine to assist with the rescue efforts.  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Thursday:  "This incident also raises serious concern regarding the lacking emergency contingency plans at the mine for alternative and backup power generation.  Surely this cannot be acceptable and best practice.  Amcu insists that the mine should have its own backup arrangements for this kind of contingency."  Like Amcu, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Thursday expressed concern for the wellbeing of the trapped workers’ health.

Read this report by Allan Seccombe in full at BusinessLive. Read too, Rescued Sibanye miners receiving medical attention after being trapped underground for over 24 hours, at News24. And also, Beatrix rescue operation 'dealt with safely', says Chamber of Mines, at Business Report

Women-led Eskom team in rescue of trapped Beatrix miners

News24 reports that the team of Eskom workers who rescued 955 miners from Sibanye Gold’s Beatrix mine, who were trapped for more than 24 hours below ground last week, were led by a dynamic group of women.  The miners, who were rescued on Friday morning without any serious injuries or fatalities, were trapped when a storm caused an electric cable outage on Wednesday night.  The two 132 kV lines supplying mines in the Welkom area collapsed due to a severe storm late on Wednesday night, leaving mines in the area without electricity supply.  Eskom's senior management commended the sterling job by the multidisciplinary team, which was led by Nozipho Mpanza, the Senior Manager Maintenance & Operations, in restoring the power.  Mpanza was acting as Free State Operating Unit General Manager on the day.  She was assisted by Recovery Manager Bondozi Mapeka, while the Operating Unit was led by General Manager, Lindi Mthombeni.  Interim Group Chief Executive Phakamani Hadebe said:  “I would like to commend the team for working around the clock to ensure that power was restored, especially to the mine where workers’ lives were at risk.”

Read this report by Derrick Spies in full at News24

NUM calls for ‘infrastructure audit’ in SA mines

ANA reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Friday called for an infrastructure audit to be conducted on all mines in a bid to prevent underground accidents.  After they had been trapped underground at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix gold mine in the Free State from Wednesday night after a severe storm cut power supply to the mine’s No. 1 Shaft, all 952 workers were rescued alive on Friday.  Speaking outside the mine on Friday morning, NUM national spokesperson Livhuwani Mmamburu said that the union was deeply worried about the rising number of safety incidents in the country’s mines.  “This is a very worrying situation for us.  As a union, we are calling for an infrastructure audit to be done on all South African mines to determine if they are prepared to handle incidents of power failures.  There is no reason why a mine like Beatrix should not have emergency exits if the cage fails to work.  The fact that generators also failed to kick in is worrying.  That is why we are calling for an infrastructure audit to see why are all these incidents happening,” Mmamburu stated.  He also criticised Sibanye-Stillwater for failing to inform the next of kin of trapped mineworkers about their plight and the efforts to rescue them, saying that the union had had to step in and calm the situation.

Read this report by Siphelele Dludla in full at The Citizen. See too, Parliamentary committee slams Sibanye-Stillwater’s 'attitude to safety', at News24. And also, Amcu slams Sibanye-Stillwater mine over power supply, at SABC News. As well as, Numsa: Mining industry doesn’t value the life of an African worker, at EWN

Amcu and Sibanye-Stillwater agree that operations at Beatrix to remain suspended on Monday

SABC News reported on Sunday evening that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) had confirmed that operations would remain suspended at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix Gold mine in the northern Free State.  Some 955 mine workers were stuck underground for almost two days following a power outage caused by a severe storm on Wednesday and were only brought to the surface on Friday morning.  Amcu’s regional chair Xolani Bokoloshe said the union had met with the mine management and a collective decision was taken about workers not reporting for work.  “In our discussion we agree(d) with the employer that people are not going to report on duty, (for) the night shift today (Sunday).  The morning shift also is not going to report on duty tomorrow morning (Monday).  All the employees will report at the training centre, and we agreed that tomorrow (Monday) the DMR will come and test the generators after the DMR made a decision we will be binded (bound) by the decision of the DMR,” he indicated.

A short report by Aphumelele Mdlalane is at SABC News

Concor contract workers at Anglo Plats mine down tools demanding permanent employment

SABC News reports that according to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the 72 striking workers at Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena mine will continue with their action until their demands are met.  Workers contracted to Concor, an opencast mining contractor, are demanding permanent employment at the mine.  The construction workers on an unprotected strike at the open cast mine have been doing their jobs for over six years as fixed-term contract workers.  They say being on contract for years disadvantages them, as they do not get the same incentives as their permanent counterparts.  Amcu spokesperson at the mine, Prince Malema, said they had decided to embark on an unprotected strike after their efforts to talk with their managers failed.  He indicated that the local Langa traditional council has also intervened by taking the matter up with Concor.  Management of Concor said the matter was before the Labour Court in a case in which the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and other unions have argued that, in terms of the 2014 amendments to the Labour Relations Act, employees on a fixed-term contract must be offered permanent employment after three months.  Concor is opposing the matter, but says it will abide by the court ruling.

Read this report by Rudzani Tshivhase in full at SABC News

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • Early warning system could be the answer to preventing fatalities in mines, says DST, at Mining Weekly
  • Curbing protracted and violent mining strikes in 2018, at Daily Maverick
  • Homes hanging on by a thread over reckless and illegal chrome mining in Limpopo, at Fin24
  • Keep Mosebenzi Zwane away, Mining Indaba delegates say, at BusinessLive
  • Zwane to face investors over policy uncertainty and safety issues, at The Citizen


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES / LOCK-OUTS

Strike action delays start of DUT’s academic year by a week

BusinessLive reports that an ongoing staff strike at the beleaguered Durban University of Technology (DUT) has forced the start of the academic year to be delayed by a week.  Lectures were due to kick off on Monday, 5 February, but because of the impasse between management and staff over wage increases, the university decided on Thursday to move the commencement of academic activities to Monday, 12   February.  Students are registering online.  On Wednesday‚ the unions reduced its demands to an 8% increase in basic salary‚ a R350 housing allowance, and the dropping of a demand for a R9,000 once-off bonus.  Against this DUT has put forward a final offer of a 6.5% increase for both basic salaries and housing allowances and no once-off bonus.  The university has urged unions to concentrate on resolving the salary deadlock rather than focus on allegations directed against the vice-chancellor Prof Thandwa Mthembu.  The unions, particularly the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu)‚ have called for Mthembu’s removal.  DUT’s Alan Khan said on Thursday, that the intervention of a mediator was now needed to be explored, even though the union had previously rejected the university’s request for the CCMA or another independent mediator to assist

Read this report by Suthentira Govender in full at BusinessLive


PROTESTS / MARCHES / CAMPAIGNS

Planned ‘illegal march’ by military veterans over benefits causes concern

ANA reports that he Department of Military Veterans on Friday said it was deeply concerned after receiving information that there were some military veterans planning to undertake “an illegal march” to its offices in Pretoria this week.  Spokesperson Mbulelo Musi said in a statement:  “The department acknowledges and respects the constitutional rights of the military veterans to raise their issues with the department regarding the benefits the department provides, as well as related services.  However the department urges the military veterans to do so in line with the laws of the country and to use the channels which have been established for this purpose.”  Musi went on to indicate that the department was in constant engagement with the SA National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) and its affiliates “to find seamless mechanism to provide the 11 benefits outlined in the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011.”  Musi added that currently the department was working hard to process more than 11,000 applications for both basic and higher education support benefit for the 2018 academic year, working with SANMVA and its affiliates.

Read this report in full at The Citizen. Read the department’s press statement at SA Govt online


STATUS OF UBER DRIVERS

Uber drivers in SA to launch new bids to get recognised as employees

City Press reports that Uber drivers in SA will soon launch a new bid to get recognised as employees of the global taxi behemoth, challenging the casualised “gig economy” model of work.  This follows a defeat in the labour court early last month, when a watershed CCMA ruling that seven drivers were employees of Uber’s local subsidiary, Uber Technologies SA, was overturned.  The judge rejected this as wrong because the claim should have been made against Uber BV in the Netherlands – the company that owns the app.  Due to a mistake made by the union that the drivers previously belonged to, their cases cited the wrong company and the actual merits of the case were not even entertained by the labour court.  The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), the drivers’ current representative, said there were now three parallel legal routes to take.  First, there will be a new CCMA hearing, citing the correct Uber company.  In addition, the union will consider approaching the CCMA and possibly the labour court for a declaratory ruling in terms of section 200B of the Labour Relations Act.  Another potential legal strategy would be to challenge the legitimacy of the contracts that all Uber drivers have to sign – digitally – with Uber BV.

Read this report by Dewald Van Rensburg in full at Fin24


INSOURCING

EFF tables motion to insource all City of Johannesburg contract workers

EWN reports that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party says it has successfully tabled a motion in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, pushing for the city to insource all its contract workers.  They include security guards, cleaners, refusal removal workers, drivers and all general workers that are currently working in the metro under various outsourcing companies.  The party says outsourcing leads to casualisation of jobs, workers’ exploitation and is associated with poor wages and the exclusion of benefits such as medical aid and pension fund.  The EFF’s Musa Novela commented:  “As contracted employees at most they get paid next to nothing and at the same time, they work long hours and there’s absolutely no benefits, in most cases.  So once they’re employed permanently in the city, then they will be able to be paid at least a living wage and at the same time, they’ll get all the benefits that all other employees of the city are afforded.”

A short report by Koketšo Motau is at EWN


MINIMUM WAGES

National Minimum Wage Bill erodes R20 deal

City Press reports that unions have warned that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Bill has backtracked from last year’s agreement between unions and businesses in numerous small ways that water down the watershed new intervention in the labour market.  A joint submission by union federations party to the talks warns that this kind of chipping away at the already-contentious R20-per-hour deal “will lead to major unhappiness and possible action”.  The three federations – Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa – have been taking enormous flak from their new rival Saftu, which has outright rejected the R20 deal.  Saftu is larger than Nactu and Fedusa combined, but had no input into the deal at Nedlac, the body comprising government, business, labour and community organisations.  The labour department finally acknowledged last week one grave mistake in the bill, which was the changed definition of “worker”, in terms of which independent contractors were excluded.  The department said it was definitely a mistake and not an intentional regression on the coverage of the bill.  Business Unity SA (Busa), has made no submissions on the bill, but acknowledges the mistake around the definition of “worker”.  Meantime, it has become increasingly unlikely that the NMW will be implemented by Workers’ Day this year, as had been planned.

Read this report by Dewald Van Rensburg in full at Fin24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Unions fed-up with new minimum wage for farm workers, at GroundUp


WORKPLACE CONDITIONS / ABUSE

Springs farmworker relates how employer scooped a jug into sewage and forced him to drink it

City Press reports that for more than a month Joseph Mona (36) complained to the authorities that his employer had severely abused him.  He went to the police in Springs, Ekurhuleni, and to the Equality Court in Germiston to complain about how his employer and his son allegedly forced him to swallow a litre of faeces and then threw him in a septic tank full of sewage.  He also went to the CCMA in Boksburg to complain about the thousands of rands his employer allegedly had not paid him.  Mona said nobody bothered to look into his claims until a court official eventually went to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to complain that he hadn’t received any justice.  “If it was not for political pressure, nothing probably would have happened,” Mona said.  Maria Leicester (50) and her 27-year-old son Chris were taken into custody on Thursday.  Her husband has been admitted to hospital with kidney failure and has not yet been charged.  Mother and son appeared in the Springs Magistrates’ Court on charges of crimen injuria, kidnapping and aggravated assault on Friday.  The case was postponed for further investigation.

Read this report by Johan Eybers in full at News24


RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB LOSSES

Aveng and NUM at odds over number of possible layoffs at subsidiary

BusinessLive reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and construction company Aveng are at loggerheads over claims of "mass" retrenchments by an Aveng subsidiary.  According to the NUM, it has received a section 189 (possible retrenchment) notice from Aveng Grinaker-LTA to retrench 2,863 workers and said it was "worried and saddened” that the company was likely to retrench such a huge number of workers at a time of high unemployment.  It called on Aveng Grinaker-LTA to rethink its position to retrench.  But an Aveng Grinaker-LTA representative responded:  "The 2,863 number quoted in the NUM statement is the total headcount of wage-earning employees in Aveng Grinaker-LTA, not the number of employees affected by the retrenchment process."  The group confirmed that it was engaging with representative unions on retrenching 120 permanent jobs in Aveng Grinaker-LTA Building.  The engagement has apparently been going on since October 2017 in a process facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

Read this report by Mark Allix in full at BusinessLive


MISCONDUCT / CORRUPTION / DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Hawks head disturbed by increasing numbers of public officials committing criminal offences

ANA reports that acting national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), Lt-Gen Yolisa Matakata, has expressed concern about the alarming rate at which public officials are continually being found to be in conflict with the law.  From 1 November 2017 to date, about 92 officials from different government entities across all the provinces had been arrested by the Hawks’ serious corruption crime units for various offences, including corruption, armed robbery, and theft.  Matakata indicated in a statement:  “The breakdown of the perpetrators comprises, among others, 28 police officers, 45 traffic officers, six home affairs and other government officials, including municipalities.  A staggering 34 traffic officers out of 45 are from Limpopo alone.”  She went on to say:  “Disturbingly, Limpopo province has seen a large number of officials being arrested.  Most recently 34 traffic officials and 10 police officials were arrested for corrupt activities, followed closely by Gauteng.”  Matakata said the Hawks’ mandate was to return the trust of citizens in government institutions and to provide accountability.

Read this report in full at The Citizen. Read the Hawks’ press statement at SAPS online

 

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