The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) can confirm that there is a work stoppage going on at Northam Platinum. It is, as a result, of tempering with policies by the mine management. There are clear indications to divide, weaken and reverse all the progressive policies that are regulating the employment relations at Northam Platinum Mine. The example of this is that workers discovered that a white female employee was employed without following proper procedures. When management was alerted to this malpractice they tried to justify it. Employees further demonstrated against this practice. Management responded by threatening disciplinary action without dealing with the actual issues.
Furthermore, workers are subjected to unfair dismissals for being on valid sick leaves. We suspect that management wanted to alter these policies for intentions known to them without informing the union leadership and without following the due processes.
The NUM is also worried because there are workers who were not paid while there were on valid sick leaves. Disciplinary actions were further taken against them for complying with the policy mentioned. The union leadership was informed by the workers about this onslaught against them. The union leadership on numerous times engaged the management to try and find an amicable solution without success. Management at all times resorted to threats without dealing with the actual issues that were affecting workers. In all these attempts, it became clear that there was no management will to resolve these issues other than to frustrate the union leadership.
These issues were then escalated to the level of the company CEO Paul Dunne and his management team. Numerous emails were written to Paul Dunne and not even a single response was received from him. This was another frustration experienced by the union leadership.
The NUM national leadership were informed about this development. A further attempt was made by the NUM national leadership to the company CEO Paul Dunne to make him aware of the distressful industrial relations signs at the mine. The correspondence was further asking the management involvement in the unintended provocation. His response was "noted and thank you" and nothing happened.
2. NUM culture of giving feedback
As a routine communication to members, a mass meeting was called by the union leadership on Tuesday 13 January 2015. The issues of sick notes and recruitment policies were reported to members by the union leadership. All attempts and frustrations made by the leadership to meet with the management were reported at the mass meeting. It was in this mass meeting that workers realised that the company is tempering with the policies mentioned above. Workers took a decision that if management can be allowed to continue with these practices without consultation, it means that policies will be altered unilaterally. What further exacerbated the situation is the management blatant intention not to engage the leadership.
3. Current situation
Since these problems started, there were no endeavours made by the management to try and find a solution. There are certain lessons that we have learned as a union from the circumstances of this nature. The most important one is a mistake of ostrich approach burying its head in the sand hoping that when it lifts its head up the problem will be gone.
We also want to confirm that our engagement with the company is only limited through emails. We even tried the Department of Mineral Resources to push the management to talk. We can confirm that despite a new culture of communicating through emails with the company there are drafts memorandum's that we are working on with the company that require the two parties to come to some kind of an agreement. We believe that if we were engaging in the normal culture of sitting around the table, these problems would have been resolved. We woke up this morning with another email stating that operations have been suspended at Northam Platinum as per their press statement. We really do not understand the meaning of this suspension and the meaning of intimidation. What we know is that there are two drafts of the memorandum of understanding that we are working on with the company. Once again, we are calling for the management to come to the negotiating table to try and find an amicable solution.
For more information, please contact:
Livhuwani Mammburu: 083 809 3257
(Acting NUM National Spokesperson)
Ecliff Tantsi: 082 941 4210
(NUM Chief Negotiator at Northam Platinum)
National Union of Mineworkers
7 Rissik Street.