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Union calls on Kimberley mining company to pay full salaries

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NUM has called on Kimberley Ekapa Mining to pay all workers their full salaries and benefits.

THE NATIONAL Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called on Kimberley Ekapa Mining to pay all workers their full salaries and benefits.

Cornelius Manhe, NUM Kimberley regional secretary, expressed the union’s concern on Thursday about what it called “the inhumane posture portrayed by Kimberley Ekapa Mining after the company failed to pay workers their full salaries and benefits”.

“What agitates us more is that employees were paid only R3 500, irrespective of the category, and further cut their salaries by 33%. This is heartless and inhuman. Our members are not slaves. NUM members are not robots and they will not compromise their terms and conditions of employment. They deserve to be paid their full salaries and benefits,” Manhe said.

He accused the company, “which claims to be the messiah of the Northern Cape economy”, of forcing the employees to sign a declaration which allows it to further cut their salaries by 25%”.

Manhe added that the company had, from August to October 2019, “unilaterally cut the salaries of its employees, including benefits, by the same percentage”.

“It is disingenuous of the company to now hide behind Covid-19, while the government has placed various benefits in place such as relief grants, which they arrogantly do not wish to access.

“This company further lied to the media suggesting that NUM failed to put options in place during a meeting with the union. NUM tried in vain to come up with progressive suggestions during the said meeting but the company’s team, led by the general manager, who undermines every NUM leader, rejected them all.”

The union further accused the company of failing to meaningfully engage NUM with regards to the Covid-19 regulations. 

“They failed to put health and safety measures in place as per the regulations. They further refused to allow a full-time health and safety representative to enter the mine. The only conclusion we can draw from this that they are not complying. We have informed the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to intervene and the regulatory department told us that they have advised the company to engage with organised labour,” Manhe said.

“As NUM we will spare no efforts to bring this company to its knees. We further call upon the relevant authorities to assist us. We are sick and tired of the inhumane behaviour of this company. Our members have not been paid but they are expected to resume work, without being given a transport allowance.

“We believe that it is time for Jahn Hohne and his team to leave the company and give the licence to the workers and or return it to the regulatory department. NUM will continue to fight until justice is done to our members.”

Kimberley Ekapa Mining (KEM-JV) said in response that all surface mining employees and 50% of underground mining employees could come back to work under the Covid-19 Level 4 restrictions.

“Those employees who cannot come back to work yet and have been temporarily laid off qualify for the Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) for UIF payment.”

The company added that KEM-JV was experiencing severe cash-flow constraints after not receiving any income during the Level 5 lockdown, as well as no prospects for income from production for the several months now ahead leading up to the first post virus diamond tender sale.

“The company considered different options for a restart for employees to be able to come back to work and earn an income despite the company’s severe cash-flow constraints,” the statement said. “One option was to continue with only care and maintenance work at the mines leaving the majority of KEM-JV employees dependent on only the TERS payments until the market recovers. The decision was taken to rather restart production with all surface mining employees and 50% of underground employees coming back to work and earning at least some income with a 25% salary reduction for all employees across the board.”

It added that the above reduction in salaries would fully replace any previous agreements and would be split equally into two amounts. “The first 12.5% will be referred to as a voluntary salary sacrifice. The second 12.5% will be deducted and banked for full repayment out of the first next distributable profits of the company.

“The company is confident that everyone will agree and support the company with all their energy and enthusiasm and rather be part of the initiative to safeguard jobs than to be without a job only relying on UIF.”

The statement went on to say that the focus of the company was on the well-being of all employees while ensuring the longer-term financial viability of KEM-JV for the benefit of all dependent on the company for their livelihood. 

“KEM-JV complies to the return to work guidelines of the Department of Mineral Resources  (DMR), and it is unlikely that employees returning to work will be exposed to undue risk. We succeeded in 2019 to save the company from the diamond price crash with salary reductions that have in the meantime been fully paid back. The strategy in 2019 (called Project 25), involving positive participation by everyone at the mines, became a huge success resulting in a complete recovery of the company by the end of 2019, and the company’s objective now is to achieve the same level of success surviving the coronavirus crisis with yet another unprecedented team effort for the benefit of everyone involved in the long run.”