Trade union Solidarity is grateful that four of its five demands have been included in the new draft Mining Charter. The demand that new cost items be limited in the charter given that such items can hamper growth, which could result in retrenchments and smaller increases was, however, not accommodated.
This draft does not deal with this matter in a manner that is significantly different from the Zwane version of the Charter.
This will put the mining sector under a great deal of pressure.
According to Solidarity General Secretary Gideon du Plessis, the four demands, which have been accommodated, hold benefits for Solidarity’s members and promote non-racialism.
Solidarity’s demands have been included in the new draft charter as follows:
White females are again included in the definition of previously disadvantaged, although this might be a temporary victory because, in terms of amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, white females are no longer recognised as being previously disadvantaged, and the charter definition may well change accordingly later this year.
Affirmative action employment targets are slightly more realistic than in the Zwane version but the period for reaching those targets has been extended from one year to five years.
All employees, irrespective of race, will be beneficiaries of employee share ownership schemes. All credit goes to Mining Minister Gwede Mantashe for his insight and support for this demand.
Finally, Solidarity’s proposal for co-determination at board level has also been included in the draft charter.
According to Du Plessis, the inclusion of the principle of co-determination is the beginning of a new labour relations dispensation in the mining industry in terms of which workers will now have a say in decision making at board level.
“Thanks to having access to first-hand information workers will have a better understanding of the challenges a company is facing, and it will ensure that issues that are burning issues for employees can be dealt with at the highest level. The Labour Relations Act currently provides for the implementation of workplace forums. However, due to employer resistance and fear of increased employee choice and voice in the workplace no real successes are being achieved,” says Du Plessis.
Du Plessis furthermore said that the mining sector should now set the pace to successfully implement the principle of co-determination as is the case in so many countries in Europe, and in so doing to chip away at the positioning of “us versus them”.
“Besides Solidarity’s satisfaction with a few of its clauses, the charter still contains many contradictions, and cost-related clauses, in particular, need to be addressed at the upcoming mining summit to ensure that the mining sector is able to attract investors once again, and to increase sustainability,” concludes Du Plessis.