There is nothing that is impossible for South Africans to overcome when we stand together in pursuit of a common goal. Working together we are able to turn a dire situation into one that benefits the country as whole. Indeed, the recent pact between government, mining houses and labour unions to stem job losses in the mining industry speaks volumes about the application of the principle of cooperation amongst stakeholders.
This pact comes at a critical juncture: the economy remains under immense pressure and cutting thousands of jobs in the current environment could worsen the situation. The pact stands as a blueprint on how all sectors of our economy can work together to save jobs. President Jacob Zuma’s urged business and labour to put the country first in these tough economic times rather than focus solely on profit margins and wage increases. He also emphasised that reducing labour to retain profit margins was not the way forward and that given the current economic climate, it should no longer be “business as usual”.
Accordingly, I urge all stakeholders to rally behind its implementation (of the pact) as every effort will make a difference. It cannot be over emphasised that the industry is a key feature of the economy and is one of the largest employers within the country. It supports thousands of households, including many in our neighbouring states, who depend on income from the jobs which the industry creates.
It is my hope that by saving jobs and mitigating effects where such eventualities could not be avoided, the mining pact will have a direct impact on the livelihood of thousands of families who depend on the industry, directly and indirectly.
The mining industry has been beset by a depressed global economy which has led to a decline in commodity prices and demand for our minerals. It resulted in a number of mining companies expressing their intention to restructure operations through the shedding of jobs in an attempt to cut costs. Such a scenario in the current economic climate would hurt all role players and affect the economy. Government therefore called on mining companies to work with it and review their plans to cut thousands of jobs. We want to avoid a calamity. I am therefore delighted and welcome the establishment of a tripartite Technical Task Team which has been hard at work since early August.
Following this, hard work Principals were able to adopt a broad framework of interventions and in a joint declaration by government, mining houses and labour demonstrated their commitment to protect jobs and lessen the impact of job losses. Ten interventions have been identified and a number of recommendations made on how the challenges that would result in job losses could be addressed. These include a pledge to delay retrenchments so that consultations could be extended. It will also allow sufficient time for the implementation of the interventions.
Parties have undertaken to improve the efficiency of mining operations by enhancing productivity and managing the cost pressures at mining houses.
Every effort will also be made to create alternative jobs for mineworkers and a framework for management, employees and unions is being developed.
Retrenchments will be explored on a case-by-case basis so that alternatives such as utilising the training lay-off scheme, reskilling of employees and transfers between companies can be implemented to avoid job losses.
Moreover, the sale of distressed mining assets will be facilitated and where possible attempts will be made to save and even create jobs in the hands of their new operators.
In some instances where job losses are unavoidable, support for mineworkers in terms of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) have been prioritised, including counselling and training.
To support retrenched mineworkers, funds will be made available from the Multinational Companies’ Procurement Levy formed under the Mining Charter to help create alternative jobs for them.
An agreement has also been reached on streamlining the processes for downscaling and exploring fiscal instruments to manage the circumstances facing the industry.
The local mining sector will be promoted and markets will be developed to help increase the demand for South African minerals. The agreement highlighted that key implementation milestone will be communicated from time to time.
It is in the best interest of all parties to ensure that the mining pact is a success. The government is confident that if fully implemented it will be mutually beneficial for mining houses, labour and the country at large.