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NC mine’s job cuts a ‘bloodbath’


The union has expressed shock and disgust after it received notice from Trans Hex to retrench 332 permanent employees in the Northern Cape

Mosebenzi Zwane, mineral resources minister. File image

THE NATIONAL Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has described diamond mining company Trans Hex’s intention to retrench 332 permanent workers in the Northern Cape as a “jobs bloodbath”.

NUM expressed its “shock and disgust” after it received a Section 189 notice from Trans Hex to retrench 332 permanent employees in the Northern Cape last week.

This number excludes close to 200 contractors who are also facing retrenchments.

The company announced last week that it had notified the National Union of Mineworkers that it intended starting a Section 189 consultation process over retrenchments at the Baken mine, which employs 332 workers.

The Trans Hex statement said Baken had been in operation for more than 45 years and that “the company has made every effort to sustain operations at Baken”.

“However, the mine’s low carat production and subsequent financial losses are now considered to be unsustainable.

“Baken incurred a loss of R35.8 million in the 2017 financial year (ending in March) and an approximate loss of R46.5 million for the period April to July 2017. In terms of the notice it is envisaged that operations at Baken will continue during the consultation process and that the mine will then be placed on care and maintenance effective from November 1, 2017.”

In February last year Trans Hex said that it would retrench 125 employees at the Baken and Bloeddrif mines in an effort to extend the operating lives of these mines. The company also changed the operating regime from a four-shift system operating seven days a week to a three-shift system working a five-and-a-half day week.

Trans Hex reported an overall loss of R182.6 million for the year to end-March 2017 after losing R100.7 million in the prior financial year.

NUM national spokesperson, Livhuwani Mammburu, said that NUM “strongly condemned” the “irresponsible” actions of Trans Hex.

“This jobs bloodbath is a clear attack on the working class, communities and the poor . . . a direct attack on mine workers in particular,” Mammburu said.

“In 2015 Trans Hex closed its Reuning operation, which resulted in more than 100 voluntary severance programmes (VSPs). Three months ago the company took another selfish decision to close Bloeddrif operations and 120 workers, who took VSPs, lost their jobs. Trans Hex is now contemplating a closure of the last Lower Orange River (LOR) operation; and in all closures the company disregarded the application of Section 52 Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) to save these valuable jobs in the poverty stricken Namaqua region,” Mammburu said.

He added that NUM had engaged the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) regional manager as well as written submissions to the portfolio committee on minerals but nothing had been done to ensure compliance.

NUM will host its Western Cape Region Mining Shop Steward Council on September 16 in Springbok.

“We call on the ANC-led provincial government, the ANC provincial chairperson and the DMR to explain their action and plans to the workers to retain jobs in the mining industry,” Lefa Phatsoane, NUM Western Cape regional secretary, said.

DMR spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi, said that the crucial matter of saving jobs in the sector was receiving priority attention by the Minerals and Petroleum Board, appointed by the Minister of Mineral Resources.

“Any potential retrenchments must be brought to the attention of the department and dealt with in terms of Section 52 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. All mining rights holders are reminded to adhere to the 10-point plan on saving jobs, which was signed in 2015 by stakeholders in the industry,” Shezi said.