Union tells mineworkers to resist Harmony Gold mine restart

Harmony Gold said it rolled out a COVID-19 prevention strategy across its operations before South Africa’s lockdown was announced, and had a plan to ensure a safe restart.
Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has told members not to go back to work at Harmony Gold’s Target mine on Friday, the union said as mines across the country prepare to restart as the COVID-19 lockdown eases.

“As far as we know, Harmony has not implemented the necessary safety steps to ensure that the workplace is safe,” NUMSA said in a statement on Tuesday. “As we speak, with the current skeleton staff, they are failing to maintain proper health and safety standards.”

Mineworkers worldwide are resisting going back to work in deep mines where social distancing is nearly impossible and where they are sometimes not provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

NUMSA said it demanded Harmony Gold “drastically” reduce the number of people in shaft cages, provide the necessary PPE, disinfect mine accommodation, and pay employees their full salary for the duration of the lockdown.

In response to a request for comments, Harmony Gold said it rolled out a COVID-19 prevention strategy across its operations before South Africa‘s lockdown was announced, and had a plan to ensure a safe restart.

“Harmony’s COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedure is aimed at ensuring a safe return to work for each of its employees and meeting the conditions contained in the amended lockdown regulations published in the Government Gazette on 16 April 2020 for the safe resumption of operations,” the statement read.

Harmony added that it has a medical hub at each of its mines.

South Africa government imposed a strict lockdown on March 27 to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Most mines were forced to temporarily shut down.

However, mindful of the economic damage caused by the shutdown of a sector which contributes 8% of gross domestic product, the government on April 16 said it would allow mines to start up again at up to 50% capacity.

On May 1 South Africa will begin a phased reopening of the economy with travel restrictions eased and some industries, such as mining, allowed to operate.

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When the union mantra is ‘do as little as possible and we will get you as much as possible in terms of salary increases’ the country, economy, society and the individuals themselves are losers. How can the union industry be so powerful yet have absolutely no accountability whatsoever? I genuinely believe this is a system of abuse and oppression.

I sincerely hope that if the workers heed the unions directive that they recover lost wages from the unions coffers

Unions are responsible for destroying far more jobs than they claim to protect. It is their constant greed, justified as they state in protecting the workers for a better wage and not being exploited etc etc etc. Yet most of these Union bosses drive around in 7 series and S class mercs, their wives in X5s and MLs.

Ironically one politician that appears to be fighting the current madness and providing a little push back – is Tito Mboweni. The actual architect of the most oppressive labour laws in the world and this by his own admission, was a big mistake but pandoras box was opened a long time ago.

The unions only ensure one thing and that is, mine employment will keep on collapsing. They ensure an accelerated drive towards mechanisation/ automation – the rule of thumb in complex underground ops is about 33:1 currently and increasing exponentially. Meaning that if you have a current non mechanized mine in SA employing 33,000 miners – if you switch to full mechanization and automation where possible, that the same mine in 5 years or less need only employ about 900-1000 workers – admittedly they will be in large a much higher paid and much higher skilled worker and far less likely to belong to a union.

But the culture of ‘entitlement and now’ is just too strong. Hence they push and push, without thinking. We have self driving cars, trucks, drones, incredible robotics in many industries – RSA is quite far behind as there is a gentlemans agreement in place and actual agreements soon expiring, that prevent what is considered over mechanization. But you can only push so far – there is a cost at which stage it is easier to moth ball a mine. Tens of thousands of jobs will vanish as they have done for 3 decades – but eventually, if South Africa is stable enough (A big IF) some of the big corporates will restart these mines with new tech and focused machines not labour.

When i see a headline like this, i just want to run through a brick wall. Jobs at the moment are like hens teeth, yet here you go pretending you care about health and covid 19 precautions. Did you insist your workers were not allowed under ground during last years flu season, no – please the biggest cause of deaths in RSA mines is FOG (fall of ground) caused by seismic events, negligence and the nature of the risk factor that occurs working 3kms below the surface in 60C. Covid is the least of their worries – 90 deaths in 1 month across a population of 59 million, come on, stop with the fraud already. Those miners have a better chance of dying by a meteor strike under ground than Covid 19.

Social distancing in the cages is about the same as your average taxi, or shack.

Try running and capitalising your own mining operation mr “bright spark” unions!

Carry on with your commie attitude and you’ll soon discover that huge operations of this nature require brains and entrepreneurial shareholders – the very people you rely on for your “job” but so hate!

You’ll miss them when they divest and take their capital to more receptive, welcoming and “cleva” shores….fools

End of comments.

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