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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

Mining job losses requires bold and visionary action from government

9 December 2015

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply alarmed by the latest threats by Anglo American ,that they plan to retrench 85 000 workers worldwide. They also threatened to shut down some of their mines during their restructuring process, as a result of excess supply and weak demand of commodities.

This is a calamitous pronouncement that will result in thousands of workers and their families losing their livelihoods and the rate of unemployment rocketing sky high. South Africa will be hit the hardest by this decision because Anglo South Africa employs about 45 000 workers. It will also worsen a bad situation following an earlier announcement by the mining company Lonmin that they will cut 6 000 jobs due to the falling commodity prices and high costs of production.

All of this bears out our assertion, as the federation, that this country is in the grip of an economic crisis and that drastic steps are needed to stem this tide of job losses and mine closures. We expect that the recommendations and proposals of the Mining Industry, Growth, Development and Employment Task Team that met as recently as August this year to deal with retrenchments in the sector will be implemented.

It is not enough to commit to adhering to due legal processes when dealing with retrenchments, when people`s livelihoods and the future of generations are at stake. These mining companies made fortunes and built mining empires on the back of workers and they cannot therefore be allowed to cut and run.

These mining companies made profits in the last two decades and they spirited their profits out of the country to foreign banks and tax havens. We expect them to dip in those massive currency reserves to cope and deal with the present depressed situation in the mining sector. We cannot afford to have these mining companies continue to use this country as a badly managed casino, where they smash, grab and leave.

The Minister of Minerals and Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane ,should take the mining licences of all those companies ,who are not prepared to keep their mines operational. The mining companies should engage the NUM ,a responsible union about how they plan to re-skill the mineworkers, who face retrenchment. Government should also put concrete proposals on how these companies will be assisted to cut the costs of doing business without compromising the jobs of workers. The department of Mineral Resources should take a leaf out of the Department of Trade and Industry that actively intervenes and gives practical support to the companies and workers, facing retrenchments.

There has to be a discussion about the previously contemplated government proposal for the suspension of payment of royalty taxes by mining companies to ease cost pressures.

Our government needs to wake up from the slumber and convene a stakeholder meeting between government, business and labour to discuss and come up with solutions to stop these ongoing retrenchments.

We need to put an immediate moratorium on these retrenchments, while still looking for a workable solution. The same drastic steps that were taken in 2009 after the 2008 Global economic crisis should be taken to deal with the current economic slump.

Our government cannot keep on playing the role of a spectator, while the persisting global capitalist crisis continues to weigh down heavily on our economy. While we acknowledge that the South African economy continues to suffer from the fall in commodity prices, a weak demand from China and Europe and from the sharp depreciation of our currency; we cannot afford to sit idle and allow the continuation of these massive job-losses and closures.

This ongoing haemorrhaging of jobs by the mining industry underscores COSATU`s call for the renationalisation of Acerlor Mittal and the creation of a state-owned mining company.

Considering that most analysts predict that commodity prices are likely to remain down for the whole of next year and that already this year the International Monetary Fund has revised its forecast of global economic growth from 3,6% to 3.1%. The government cannot afford to tinker with the system anymore in a country that is devastated by high unemployment. This current economic crisis is crying for a bold, decisive and visionary leadership.

The tired and discredited Neoliberal logic of growth first and redistribution later that is currently being pursued by the Treasury will only worsen the situation.

This global economic downturn is as a result of the crisis of accumulation and consolidation by monopoly capital. They are employing the smash and grab tactics of making short term investments and scaling up on mergers and acquisitions.

This renders governments impotent because decision-making processes are taken outside the country, weakening government`s capacity to regulate. The profits are also spiralled out of the country. All of this worsens the blight of capital flight and job-losses that we are currently witnessing.

COSATU will be mobilising its members and workers in general to demand immediate and visible action from both big business and government to stop this jobs massacre. Our 12th National Congress has made it very clear that retrenchments, casualisation, outsourcing and the crisis of unemployment need to be fought on the streets. The indecisiveness by the state and the reckless attitudes and decisions of big business will not be tolerated anymore.

Sizwe Pamla (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street

P.O.Box 1019
South Africa

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339
Mobile: 060 975 6794
E-Mail: sizwe@cosatu.org.za