The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said at a press conference on Thursday that drastic action needed to be taken to avert the “jobs bloodbath” facing the mining industry. As many as 20 000 jobs have been put at risk in the last few weeks alone.
“The sector is under enormous pressure at the moment, and workers as an economic resource are expendable. The economy cannot create enough demand at present to absorb people into the labour market,” said Mathunjwa.
He laid the blame for the perilous state of affairs at the door of a number of factors including government and, specifically, Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane.
“Since Zwane joined, there has been no direction at all from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). He is now backtracking on the moratorium on mining licences because he said something that his ruling party did not agree with. We are in a crisis and they are dysfunctional.”
But Mathunjwa also veered out of his usual ambit involving issues of workers by criticizing broader government policy, which even involved invoking Donald Trump. Taking about the economy, he said: “The challenge has been the lack of capacity to diversify the economy and create new industries. [Our] trade agreements do not promote local manufacturing. We should have a policy like Donald Trump that says ‘Africa and South Africa first!’”
Two companies engaging in the largest retrenchments include AngloGold Ashanti (8 500) and Sibanye Gold (7 400). Mathunjwa said Amcu would continue pursuing all avenues to avoid job losses, and noted that according to information at its disposal, each mineworker supports five to ten people dependent on their wage, “so 8 500 job losses means a potential 85 000 people lose their livelihood. These job losses will be felt across Carletonville and the surrounding towns.” Mathunjwa also said it was “highly unethical and hypocritical” for these companies to be investing overseas at a time when they were cutting jobs in South Africa.
Amcu has served the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) with a notice that it intends to engage in a nationwide protest over the issue of job losses, and this will include a petition directly to the office of the President of the Republic. No strike is being considered at present, as this will “plunge workers into more difficulty”.