Johannesburg – The government, mining companies and labour unions adopted a plan yesterday in an attempt to curb job losses in an industry where more than 11 700 people are at risk of losing their employment.
However, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) decided against committing to the pact.
The government received notice of plans to cut up to 11 798 jobs, but unions say the figure could be as high as 19 000.
The formation of the pact, which was led by Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, comes as mining houses plan to cut thousands of jobs with commodity prices such as platinum, coal and iron ore having hit long-term lows.
“We recognise that we may not be able to save all the jobs,” Ramatlhodi said.
“That’s why other measures kick in, such as what has been referred to as a government contribution towards retraining and reskilling.”
The government has been under pressure to intervene in the jobs crisis in the mining sector, which contributes 7 percent of the gross domestic product.
On Sunday, President Jacob Zuma said the “economy is sick” and appealed to business and organised labour to prioritise saving jobs over profits and strikes as the economy faced challenges when he launched unit 6 at Eskom’s new Medupi power station in Limpopo.
DA finance spokesman David Maynier said yesterday that it was “bizarre” given the fact that the government, rather than the private sector, was probably the biggest “binding constraint” on economic growth and job creation in South Africa.
“President Zuma should be supporting the private sector, rather than blaming the private sector for job losses. In order to do so, Zuma should be tackling the fundamental roadblocks to economic growth to boost economic growth and create jobs in South Africa, including policy uncertainty, the energy crisis, inflexible labour laws, failing state-owned enterprises; and over-burdensome red tape regulation,” the DA said.
Ramatlhodi told journalists ahead of the signing of the pact in Pretoria yesterday, that there were potentially 11 798 job cuts in the mining industry, and the agreement was aimed at minimising these retrenchments.
Yet, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) deputy president Joseph Montisetse, who was also at the meeting, said the industry envisaged retrenching potentially about 19 000 employees.
Lonmin, the world’s third-biggest platinum producer, previously announced it planned to cut 100 000 ounces of production a year which would put 6 000 jobs at risk, while Anglo American said it would divest in 15 assets and about 50 000 jobs in the next three years.
Chamber of Mines deputy president Andile Sangqu said the agreement would go a long way in rebuilding confidence in the struggling industry.
The declaration sounded good on paper, but Ramatlhodi said the signing of the agreement did not mean there would be no moratorium on job cuts.
“We have not used the word moratorium in the agreement. We are saying if there are retrenchments there has to be inclusivity in the process and there must be active participation of all stakeholders. We recognise that we may not be able to save all the jobs,” Ramatlhodi said.
The agreement is still at risk as Amcu, which led a five-month platinum belt strike, has not signed the agreement.
Amcu deputy president Sanele Myeza, who spoke at the meeting yesterday, said the union was behind the process of saving jobs and would first get a mandate from members before committing.
Amcu also did not commit to former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe’s framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry signed by the industry to rebuild confidence after the Marikana massacre of August 2012.
“We are fully behind the process. Our membership is so large. We have not yet reached out to them,” Myeza said.
The deal comes after a tripartite technical task team identified a 10-point intervention plan and recommendations to save jobs.
Part of the agreement includes the setting up of a development fund to create alternative jobs for thousands of retrenched miners, and facilitating the sale of distressed mines to save jobs.