Johannesburg - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says it will challenge a plan by the world’s largest platinum producer to terminate more than 6 000 jobs.
The union has expressed shock at Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) announcement, labelling the mining giant arrogant, after it disregarded its proposal that would have affected only 3 000 jobs through voluntary severance packages and not filling vacancies.
The mining company said this week that 6 900 jobs would be affected and that the “ultimate number of retrenchments will depend on the conclusion of the retrenchment avoidance measures, which include voluntary severance packages (VSPs), early retirement, redeployments and the filling of internal vacancies”.
As part of its restructuring, Amplats will consolidate its Rustenburg operations into three operating mines by integrating at least three shafts. An announcement earlier this year that the company was going to shed 14 000 jobs and mothball some shafts drew criticism from the government and unions.
Amplats then came up with a plan that involved fewer job cuts.
The company cited low profits as the reason for cutting jobs.
Its chief executive, Chris Griffith, said this week: “We are at a critical stage of the process and this restructuring will be a crucial step to enable us to return to profitability”.
The NUM was, however, not happy, saying it had wanted all jobs saved and only workers opting for VSP to be released. “The jobs bloodbath is a clear attack on the working class and the poor, a direct attack on mineworkers generally. Our union will respond accordingly” said NUM general secretary Frans Baleni.
The union’s spokesman, Lesiba Seshoka, said his union would contest Amplats’s decision to shed jobs in the CCMA, and “if need be, we will go to court”.
Other unions also expressed dissatisfaction, saying they had hoped for more jobs to be saved. Head of mining at the United Association of South Africa (Uasa), Franz Stehring, said that according to his calculations, after VSP and other options, only 3 000 jobs would be lost. He said this number, when compared to the initial job-cut plan of 14 000, was a victory on the unions’ part. “I am not totally happy but I’d say we’ve done our job. The job cuts are understandable from an economic point of view.”
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) was still considering its next step, saying it believed further engagement could have saved more jobs. “We were aware that people were already showing interest in VSP and have been saying let’s see how other jobs can be saved after that process. Our position was that no jobs should be lost and people should not be forced to take early retrenchments,” said Numsa regional organiser Mere Boase. - The Star