coalCity Press reports that the ongoing business rescue at Optimum Coal has finally claimed its first victims, with more than 400 workers at the mine having been served with retrenchment letters on Tuesday.  

This was the first retrenchment since the Gupta family took over the mine in 2015, and a year after the mine was placed under business rescue in February 2018.  Richard Mkhuzulu, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch secretary at Optimum, painted a bleak picture of the conditions workers were currently going through while the business rescue process dragged on.  He said the closure of the biggest mine in the area had already had devastating consequences, and the recent retrenchments had all but dashed hopes of an economic recovery for the workers.  Mkhuzulu said that although the workers were told that the process would be completed by July, he doubted the veracity of that statement.  “The last time I checked, there have been more than 50 court cases delaying the process.  As employees, out of desperation we went to the [business rescue] practitioners and asked to be terminated so that we could access our pension monies.  But nothing has happened.”  Mkhuzulu indicated that 75% of the workforce at the mine were contractors, adding that the financial straits workers found themselves in had gone beyond vehicle and house repossessions.  Workers had to resort to queueing at soup kitchens organised by charities in the area.  Louis Klopper, one of the mine’s business rescue practitioners, advised that the rescue process should be completed by end-July, when a meeting of the creditors would be held and a preferred bidder decided on.


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