The National Union Mineworkers (NUM) has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently intervene and act in the rail sector as thousands of workers in the mining industry face job cuts.
The NUM said the collapse of the rail infrastructure has pushed mining companies to transport coal on the road.
The union said the situation was dire on the ground and 35,000 workers in the coal sector face the imminent danger of losing their jobs if the situation was not resolved.
It said earlier this year Ramaphosa had promised to take action on the crisis at Transnet, but nothing has happened.
“In the face of this impending crisis, the NUM highveld region is pleading with the president to intervene. The situation is very dire. The reduction in coal production due to the unavailability of trains to transport it to Richards Bay Coal Terminal jeopardises thousands of quality jobs. The urgency of this matter could be measured by the recent notification of section 189 retrenchments served to the NUM by Glencore.
“Volumes transported on Transnet networks have declined by nearly a third over the past five years because of issues that include poor management and idle locomotives, cable theft and ageing tracks. Most coal miners have no choice but to use trucks to cash in on the record demand. The rail operations continue to be unreliable for the mining sector, causing harm to the economy,” said the NUM.
The union said on Wednesday any further waste of time would put jobs at risk.
It said time was running out before jobs were lost in the coal mining sector.
It said the only way to get out of the situation was to find solutions immediately.
Political parties and experts have been warning about the implosion of the rail sector with Transnet unable to move goods on the railway lines.
They called on government to act swiftly before it’s too late.
“The NUM made a similar call, saying 35,000 jobs were on the line if the situation did not improve. The time for proactive leadership is now. We cannot afford to lose 35,000 jobs when viable solutions exist. The government's inaction and negligence in this matter are untenable.
“Such delays and the Transnet neglect threaten our ability to stand in support of the ruling party, the ANC, with whom we are in alliance through our federation, Cosatu. We implore the government to recognise the severity of the situation within the coal sector and take immediate and decisive action to avert this impending catastrophe,” it said.
The union said the longer the government fails to act, the longer the crisis escalates and this will affect jobs in the mining industry.