Home South African Union slams Minerals Council for saying SA mineworkers are best paid

Union slams Minerals Council for saying SA mineworkers are best paid

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Labour union Solidarity has vehemently disagreed with the Minerals Council SA’s assertion that mineworkers in South Africa are among the best paid industrial employees, arguing instead that mining bosses in the country are the highest paid in the world.

The Minerals Council, in its latest Mining Matters bulletin, said salaries in the mining sector grew by R12 billion to R186.5bn in 2023 compared to R174.2bn a year earlier. File picture: Reuters

LABOUR union Solidarity has vehemently disagreed with the Minerals Council SA’s assertion that mineworkers in South Africa are among the best paid industrial employees.

Solidarity on Friday argued that mining bosses in the country were instead the highest paid in the world, at a time when the sector was struggling.

This comes after the Minerals Council, in its latest Mining Matters bulletin issued last week, said salaries in the mining sector grew by R12 billion to R186.5bn in 2023 compared to R174.2bn a year earlier.

According to the council, the mining industry was one of the few economic sectors to grow employment, adding 7,600 jobs, providing work to more than 477,000 people and accounting for 4.7% of formal employment.

“Over the past 15 years, increases in wages across the mining sector have been above the consumer price index (CPI), reflecting both the real wage gains in the sector by employees and a consistent narrowing of the earnings gap between lower- and higher-income employees,“ it said.

“In addition, tens of thousands of employees are direct partners in mining companies through employee share ownership programmes and profit-sharing schemes. Communities are also beneficiaries of the community benefit schemes that invest in infrastructure and several community needs, above and beyond the compliance requirements of the social and labour plans.”

However, Solidarity disagreed with the Minerals Council that mineworkers are among the best paid industrial workers in South Africa.

Solidarity’s secretary general, Gideon du Plessis, told Business Report that mineworkers were unable to retire early because of the low remuneration in the sector.

“No, I don’t agree that SA mineworkers are paid well, but will rather argue that mining bosses are some of the highest paid in the world,” Du Plessis said.

“Although there are certain mining houses that do pay well, there is not a single mineworker that is overpaid and able to retire early.”

Worse still, Du Plessis said, there was currently a subtle “strike by mining houses” that has resulted in “mining bosses and investors being not keen to invest in new developments due to various political, logistical, service delivery, structural and regulatory challenges” that they are facing in South Africa.

South Africa’s mining industry has been bleeding jobs in the past few months, with large miners such as Impala Platinum, Sibanye-Stillwater and others laying off workers after closing some shafts and curtailing production as well as capital.

On Friday, Impala Platinum announced it was planning to lay off as many as 3,900 employees from its Rustenburg, Marula and Bafokeng operations, arguing that cost-saving, capital-deferment and voluntary labour-reduction initiatives have not sufficiently offset the impact of persistently lower metal prices.

Du Plessis said the retrenchments in the industry had been crippling on the lives of workers.

“We are always disappointed whenever a Section 189 process is initiated because we are closest to the workforce and know and understand the uncertainty and suffering workers and their dependants go through during and after a retrenchment,” he said.

“The opportunities to find alternative employment in the mining sector is exceptionally slim.”

However, Minerals Council CEO Mzila Mthenjane said the South African mining industry was keen to grow the industry and expand job opportunities.

“The mining industry is intent on establishing a modern, inclusive and transformed industry, which will expand, adding more meaningful jobs, both within the sector and downstream value chains and increasing our significant contribution to South Africa’s society and economy,” Mthenjane said.

– BUSINESS REPORT

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