DOWN TOOLS: Mine, construction and energy workers will march. Picture: Gallo Images
Thousands of mine, construction and energy workers are expected to down tools throughout the country on Tuesday to remember those who have died in the line of duty and to protest about workplace safety.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said on Monday that workers would march to present a memorandum to the representatives of the Chamber of Mines, the Department of Labour, the Department of Mineral Resources, the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors and Eskom over the increasing number of fatalities in their respective industries.
“We expect 400 000 workers to participate and this will be a total shutdown of the economy. A resolution to observe a day of mourning was taken by the NUM earlier in the year to protest over the ever-deteriorating levels of safety in the workplaces and to demand the safety of its members,” said Seshoka.
He said this year, more than 100 workers had died in the mining industry, while thousands were injured every year.
About 128 mineworkers lost their lives last year and the figure was a 24% improvement over the 168 deaths in 2009.
Paul Mardon, Solidarity’s head of occupational health and safety, said the country was already looking bad three months before the end of 2011.
“According to figures we received at the beginning of last week, the country has already recorded 94 fatalities and that is a lot. We need to find new and innovative ways to bring this message across. Leadership needs to focus on raising motivation within the ranks so that workers will take care,” he said.
He said most deaths occurred in gold and platinum mines, and Gauteng, North West and Free State were the provinces with the highest fatality rates.
“I think the high price of gold was one of the factors that pushed workers to produce more. Also, the fall of ground, especially rock bursts and man-machine interaction were the main causes of such accidents,” he said.
Chamber of Mines acting chief executive Frans Barker said member companies had agreed to participate in the NUM’s national awareness march following an invitation from the union.
“While the NUM and members of the Chamber of Mines have in the past expressed similar sentiments on the health and safety of mine employees, the march marks the first time the two parties have marched together on this issue,” he said.
The department of Labour’s deputy director-general of inspection and enforcement services, Siyanda Nxawe, confirmed yesterday that the department had also received the invitation.
“The department would accept a memorandum from the NUM,” he said. Bheki Khumalo, spokesperson for the Department of Mineral Resources, said the issue of safety in the country’s mines was always a concern to Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu.