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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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Implats between rock and a hard place as contract workers’ strike could impact operations

File photo of striking miners gathering for a meeting outside Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg. Image, Reuters.

File photo of striking miners gathering for a meeting outside Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg. Image, Reuters.

Published Jun 21, 2022


IMPALA Platinum (Implats) is caught between a rock and a hard place as its operations could be disrupted by a strike after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) called on the mining firm to do the “right thing” and employ workers who are working for three contractors, as permanent staff.

This follows the labour union yesterday announcing that the contract workers – employed by contract companies Newrak, Reagetswe Mining Group and Triple M Mining – at Implats’s Rustenburg operations would embark on an indefinite strike yesterday.

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Implats share price shed nearly 4 percent to close at R175 on the JSE yesterday, as the resource index rose 1.17 percent to 68 282 points.

The union claims that the workers who work at the Implats mine were being exploited, and paid a fraction of what their permanent counterparts were earning.

But Implats yesterday countered that the labour problems lay with the with the three contracting firms.

Implats spokesman Johan Theron said while the strike won’t have a major impact on Implats, the company was concerned as some of the employees who worked on one of the shafts would be affected.

“The strike will only impact production at two of our small, high-cost, end-of-life shafts where the contractors do the mining,” Theron said.

Theron said Impala’s mining workforce was about 45 000 and as Numsa only had 3 000 members, the impact would be limited.

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He said the company was concerned about the strike that would affect some employees.

Theron said the unemployment rate in South Africa was prevalent, and it would be a shame if some workers might lose their jobs.

The three contractors were contacted and were not available for comment.

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In an interview, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said: “Even if Impala said this doesn’t affect them, these are the workers who work for them, even if they work under a contractor and they can’t wash their hands of the shocking conditions they are exposed to… They can’t, and that is our position as a union.”

She asked why Implats was not doing the right thing and employing them permanently, in line with what the Constitutional Court had said.

“The Constitutional Court said workers who are working on temporary contracts, can only work for three months after that, they must be made permanent. And get the same salaries and benefits as permanent employees,” Hlubi-Majola said.

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According to Hlubi-Majola, some workers were subjected to shocking working conditions by the contractors.

The only way this could be solved is if Implats does the right thing and employs these workers permanently, Hlubi-Majola said.

Hlubi-Majola said the workers decided to go on strike as they were tired of the treatment from the three companies.

“They have been provoked into taking this drastic action because they are fed up with being abused by these labour brokers who exploit them by paying them very little, and denying them benefits while they reap massive profits.

“The contractors at Implats are nothing more than modern-day slave traders that is why they are working so hard to keep Numsa out of the workplace,” she said.