27 February 2014

South Africa: Workers of the Platinum Belt Unite!

press release

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has been inundated with inquiries from workers in the platinum belt especially during this February month of 2014. These workers have been approached by a number of people in the past few weeks with the aim to form a new union.

There are allegations which fuel the perceptions that the NUM is taking part in the formation of this new union or the new union is formed with the blessing of the alliance partners especially the African National Congress.

We would like to assure the workers in South Africa and mineworkers in particular that the NUM knows nothing about the formation of this union. The NUM will not be part of a formation that will further fragment the unity and power of the working class. We do not believe that any alliance partner is part of the new union. We will not be surprised to discover that some of the unions that have resolved to violate Cosatu standing principle of One Country - One Federation, One Industry One Union are responsible.

In the contrary we have been approached by workers who would like to come back home and join the NUM. These workers see the NUM as their only home and hope in the current confusion and state of hopelessness that has engulfed the mining sector. Since 2012 thousand of mineworkers no longer have stable income. Many workers can no longer plan their future and those of their children.

Many workers now confess that these strikes which started since 2012 were less about wages and their quality of life, but more about displacing the NUM for political and populist reasons. These strikes have not improved the lives of mineworkers; instead mineworkers are living in the state of fear, hopelessness and economic sufferings.

The NUM is convinced that by forming more unions, workers will suffer more under the brutal exploitation of the capitalists' employers as the unions will be too weak and their strategies to fight the employers and change the economic status of workers will be more fragmented than ever.

2. Coming back home to the NUM

We know that many workers want to re-join their only trusted union the National Union of Mineworkers. We know that some of them feel ashamed to approach the NUM and re-join because of the bad things said about the union since 2012. Some workers feel they would not be welcomed back when they apply to re-join the NUM.

We would like to assure these workers that the NUM is more than ready to welcome them back home. The NUM has no intention to turn away workers who see this union as their only home during these difficult times in the history of the mining industry.

We call on all who left the NUM to re-join and get the improved service they deserve. We know many of them were intimidated to leave the NUM in 2012-2013. We know that many of them still fear to associate with the NUM due to attacks they may face later. We are saying to these workers, be brave, stand up and save the mining industry rom ruin. Say enough is enough, forward we go - join the NUM.

If there were disputes about service delivery in the past, let us sit down and identify those areas and deal with them organisationally. The NUM is more than prepared to work with you and fix all the problems that might be identified. We can only achieve this if we work together.

The NUM is not the enemy of workers, and it has never been. The enemy are populists who divide the workers because they want to claim easy victories. Together we still have a big task to change the face of the mining industry. The violent strikes since 2012 and fragmentations resulting from the formation of many unions have the potential to seriously stall progress on the following transformative issues which have been tackled by the NUM in the mining industry:

- The implementation of the Mining Charter, including housing/ hostels and Employee Share Ownership Plans (ESOPs).

- Employment of women and their deployment in middle and senior managerial positions.

- Health and safety standards and environmental issues.

- Skills development and Employment Equity

- Consistent and reliable collective bargaining system including Job Grading on which much progress was made by the NUM since year 2000.

- Job security

The above are few examples of issues the NUM has been tackling and for which much progress has been made. We all do not want to lose track of these issues for they are critical for our transformation agenda, and the more we become united and stronger the more achievable these issues would become.

Our offices will be open and more ready to welcome back those who want to re-join the NUM and we will not turn back anybody.

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