The Somkhele coal mine.

Durban - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in KwaZulu-Natal intends to take the Somkhele coal mine, near the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal, to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) for its "failure to adhere to the Labour Relations Act on retrenchments", the union said on Saturday.

The NUM was "extremely angry with Somkhele Mine following the company's failure to adhere to the Labour Relations Act of 1995, section 189(a) when dealing with retrenchments", NUM KwaZulu-Natal regional secretary Muzikayise Zakwe said in a statement.

"Somkhele Mine has not issued a section 189 notice to retrench and the NUM is not aware of retrenchment consultation meetings that we had with the company," he said.

The NUM had stated categorically that its understanding was that mining companies had an obligation to set up future forums as per the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) whereby unions were formally updated in terms of the future of the mine and possibilities of retrenchments, "but those  meetings can never be regarded as section 189 notice consultations and MPRDA does not supersede LRA [Labour Relations Act]", Zakwe said.

"The NUM is taking the company to CCMA for its failure to adhere to the Labour Relations Act on retrenchments. The NUM  will also be approaching the department of mineral resources (DMR) about the matter. NUM calls for the company (Somkhele mine) to respect South African labour laws and the company must revisit its social and labour plan in order to convince local community about its intentions to mine in the area of Mtubatuba because failure to do that will negatively affect our members through retrenchments like this," he said.

On January 23, the NUM met with Somkhele mine and the company was represented by the human resources manager. The meeting was convened after management sent a brief to workers inviting them to take voluntary severance packages (VSP). In that brief, the management alleged that the NUM agreed with them to retrench, he said. 

The NUM branch leadership had raised its concern with Somkhele mine and another meeting was convened immediately.

"During the meeting we questioned the company [about] the reason for sending a brief to workers with misleading information. The response of the company was that according to them they have done the consultation, therefore, they are now at a stage where they are offering VSPs.

"They said they sent the NUM the letter on the 30 November 2018 and claiming that they had other meetings through SBF. NUM disputed that. However, the company continued saying that all the meetings they had with NUM were for retrenchments consulting purposes.

"The NUM in KwaZulu-Natal has not received section 189 notice of the Labour Relations Act to retrench at Somkhele mine. The NUM is still waiting and urge the company to adhere to the due processes of the law in this country," Zakwe said.

African News Agency (ANA)