The threat of massive retrenchments in the mining sector could trigger yet another mass protest action – a development that could have a negative impact on the ANC’s campaign in the North West province.
Reacting to an announcement by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane that up to 32000 mine workers could lose their jobs as a result of retrenchments, labour analyst Terry Bell said such a situation would “certainly make things worse”.
Statistics on the platinum sector, reported by the South African Chamber of Mines early this month, did not make for good reading.
The chamber said that productivity had decreased “by 49% in the platinum sector” over the past 14 years.
As things stand, Lonmin has said that about 6000 workers could lose their jobs as mining companies start feeling the pressure that has been brought about by lower commodity prices due to a weakening rand.
Another mining company, leading iron ore producer Kumba, also announced that about 4000 jobs were on the line.
And while Zwane announced government plans to counter the effects of the retrenchments such as reskilling workers and counselling, trade unions are already feeling agitated as they say that labour was not consulted when the decision to retrench was announced.
Already, the National Union of Mineworkers has called for the job
losses to be minimised.
Disagreements surrounding the retrenchments are likely to trigger a protracted strike which, apart from adding more fire to the volatility already in the mining sector and negatively affecting the economy, will most certainly dent the ANC’s chances of retaining control of the North West province in the upcoming municipal elections.
Observers feel that from a political perspective the retrenchments will be ill-timed as they came hard on the heels of an announcement by labour federation Cosatu to embark on a mass drive to push the government to reconsider doing away with two tax laws that will come into effect from the beginning of next month.