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Mineworkers get retrenchment letters

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“Employees were continuously kept abreast of developments via numerous internal briefs issued during this period,”

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A NUMBER of employees of Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV) received letters of retrenchment from the company yesterday.

A member of the public said yesterday that when the affected employees reported for work yesterday they realised that their access cards had been blocked and they were told to report to HR, where they were instructed to go for their exit medicals.

A spokesperson for KEM-JV said yesterday’s events represented the end of a very long process that began on June 6 this year with the company notifying employees of its intention to retrench (“Section 189 process”), through nine consultation meetings (of which four were CCMA facilitated) and one dispute meeting with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

“Employees were continuously kept abreast of developments via numerous internal briefs issued during this period,” the spokesperson said.

He added that applications received for Voluntary Separation (VS) and Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) were evaluated and either approved or rejected on Thursday and Friday last week (September 13 and 14), and letters were issued to these employees on Friday (September 14).”The criteria was then applied, and employees to be forcibly retrenched in terms of the Section 189 process selected. A Special Employee Brief issued on Friday (September 14) explained that employees would be receiving letters to confirm their position on Monday (September 17). Due to unforeseen delays resulting from further discussions with the NUM, these letters could, however, only be distributed today (Tuesday, September 18).”

In response to the number of employees affected, the spokesperson stated that this number was much reduced from the initial number of around 150, as projected when the Section 189 notification was served.

“This decrease in the number was achieved through a process of natural attrition (resignations, transfers, dismissals, etc), making Voluntary Separation and Voluntary Early Retirement available and reconsideration of the staffing of certain functions.”

He pointed out that further retrenchments would be linked to the closure of the Super Stone Plant, which could result in a number of employees becoming redundant.

“This is currently scheduled for December 2018, but the plant will be kept in operation for as long as it is making a positive financial contribution.”

In response to enquiries regarding the criteria for retrenchment and the benefits received by retrenchees, the spokesperson stated that the basis for deciding on a new structure for the KEM-JV operations, which resulted in certain positions becoming redundant, was the operational requirements of the mine, and lowering its cost and staffing structure to ensure the sustainability thereof.

“The benefits that retrenched employees will receive are equal to or better than the requirements outlined in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.”

In terms of the reasons for the retrenchment, the spokesperson pointed out that, as communicated when the Section 189 process was announced to employees and the media on June 6, the main reason was adjusting the employment numbers to operational requirements in order to ensure the sustainability of these operations, and putting KEM-JV in a position where it could achieve its stated objective of extending the life of diamond mining operations in Kimberley beyond that of any of the operations which were joined into this joint venture.

“Several models and business plans were contemplated, with the view of avoiding forced retrenchment, but the mud push experienced at Bultfontein Mine earlier this year put us in an unfortunate position where the realities around KEM-JV’s business plan and staffing levels could no longer be ignored, and the Section 189 process had to be initiated.”

He added that the company believed that “with prudent and responsible management, it was still possible to productively and profitably mine and process the various mineral resources, including the tailings mineral resources and underground kimberlite ore, available to KEM-JV for quite a number of years, thereby extending the economic and social benefits of these operations to far beyond what could normally be expected from a mining operation (especially keeping in mind that some of the operations are as much as 150 years old)”.

“This will, however, have to come from, and depend on, a much lower cost base in order to bring marginal (low-grade) resources into play. Given that employment is one of the largest costs presented to any mining operation, the current process was initiated in an attempt to lower the cost base by reducing current employment, in the interest of providing a large group of our employees with employment over an extended period.”

The NUM in the Kimberley region meanwhile responded yesterday by stating that it was “disturbed by the inhuman and insensitive treatment by KEM-JV management after they issued retrenchment letters to NUM members on September 18 after failing to convince the unions of their decision to retrench”.

Cornelius Manhe, NUM Kimberley regional secretary, said NUM was not in agreement with the company for “the irresponsible and excessive management expenditure without accountability only to compromise employees with this retrenchment”.

“The company has used discriminatory criteria to deal and get rid of NUM members without justified process. The company has disregarded agreements in place without consulting NUM and other recognised unions,” Manhe said.

“KEM-JV management further failed to wait for the advice of the Minister of Resources on Section 52 Committee recommendations before issuing the retrenchment letters,” he added.