HARMONY Gold has begun a process that may lead to the retrenchment of about 6 000 workers at its Kusasalethu mine as unions and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) engage the company to try and avert the job losses.
Talks involving the CCMA, Harmony, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Uasa, Solidarity and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union began on Friday and will continue on January 29.
The company has begun a consultative process in line with section 189 of the Labour Relations Act, which relates to discussions to either prevent or continue with retrenchments.
It said it had 5 200 workers at the mine, excluding contractors.
“The mood is that workers want to go back to their duties. They have been told to come back when they are told to do so,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said yesterday.
Harmony said a parallel consultation process was under way between itself and union representatives to find a lasting solution to achieve normal production levels at Kusasalethu and normalise the conditions at the mine.
“The focus of these discussions is specifically on again achieving security and safety of employees at the mine, and compliance with standards, codes and procedures that will ensure a safe, sustainable and profitable Kusasalethu,” the Harmony statement read.
Harmony said the mine, which has more than 7 million ounces of reserves equating to about 25 years of life, would stay closed “until an agreement has been reached and all the conditions of re-opening have been agreed upon and committed to by all the unions and other stakeholders involved”.
As a result of last year’s strike, Harmony previously said it would exclude Kusasalethu production for the balance of the financial year.
Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs wrote to newspapers last week appealing to employees and stakeholders to work together to save the mine.
“We now have 60 days to save the mine. Harmony appeals to all parties to join us in finding a peaceful, workable and sustainable way forward,” he said in the letter.
Following last year’s wave of wildcat strikes within the industry, some of South Africa’s other major mining operations have announced restructuring.
However, the Bench Marks Foundation blamed the industry for an impending assault on workers and communities through mass retrenchments.
“Thus, 2013 is witnessing an onslaught by mining houses to pressurise workers into agreements that only deal with resuming production, but not with the underlying causes that gave rise to the strike wave in 2012,” foundation chairman Bishop Jo Seoka said.
He said Briggs seemed to take delight in what could only be seen as retaliatory action against workers.
Harmony shares rose 0.76 percent to close at R67.45 on the JSE yesterday.