Num slates Chinese bid for Orkney mine

2011-10-28 18:42

Cape Town - The National Union of Mineworkers on Friday voiced strong reservations about a Chinese bid to buy insolvent Pamodzi Gold's Orkney mine.

Num's North West secretary Joe Montisetse accused Chinese African Precious Minerals (CAPM) of trying to shirk its responsibilities on salaries and wages to its prospective workforce at the mine.

"The Chinese deal is still problematic for us," he told reporters at a briefing of parties with an interest in the Grootvlei and Orkney saga to Parliament's mineral resources portfolio committee.

Montisetse said CAPM had resisted demands to honour collective labour agreements and to hire its labour from the pool of workers left destitute by the collapse of the mine in the protracted Aurora debacle.

"After a long discussion, they have agreed that our people will get first preference [for jobs]. What is outstanding is an agreement to accept collective agreements," he said.

"Those are the rights that the Chinese are compelling us to waive so that they can start from a clean slate, pay whatever salary they think about to our members and treat them the way they like in terms of safety."

It was announced in August that CAPM would buy the Orkney mine for R150 million and invest a further R525 million.

Conditions set

Both Solidarity and Num, who represent some 5300 affected workers, welcomed the deal, but set conditions.

The unions said on Friday they feared their members would stand last in line when the purchase price went to the creditors of Pamodzi Gold, the owner of the mines that went insolvent in 2009.

Aurora Empowerment Systems, led by a grandson of Nelson Mandela and a nephew of President Jacob Zuma, then won a bid to buy the mines.

However, De Beers chairman Barend Petersen, a liquidator for Pamodzi, said if the Reserve Bank approved the transfer of CAPM's payment next month, at least a portion of the miners' claims would be paid within weeks.

"In the agreement we have also negotiated that within 30 days of payment of the purchase price the money will flow through to settle outstanding claims on the estate by the workers." Petersen said this concerned outstanding termination benefits to miners retrenched by Pamodzi, but added that liquidators could do nothing about millions of rands owed to destitute workers by Aurora Empowerment Systems.

Aurora was ordered to vacate the operations in May after workers went unpaid and assets were stripped.

The committee repeatedly heard suggestions on Friday that Aurora's political connections had slowed the resolution of the crisis and shielded its directors from prosecution for fraud.

NUM accused the labour department of failing to act on the fact that third party payments, including maintenance and insurance, were deducted from workers' wages by Aurora, but never forwarded to the relevant destinations.

"The department of labour has failed us in this regard because they were unable to press criminal charges against Aurora," Montisetse said.

"Because of this director of Aurora, the department of labour is paralysed to act." Sam Morotoba, a deputy director-general of labour, said Aurora had since July eluded attempts by the department to serve it with a Labour Court order for it to pay workers at Orkney R3.95 million in outstanding wages.

However, it had now scheduled a meeting for November 1 with the provisional liquidators who were appointed this week, and would enforce payment as part of a settlement agreement.

"We scheduled a meeting with new liquidator of Aurora... We will then serve them with a court order." Solidarity's Gideon du Plessis told MPs there was clear evidence that Aurora had "never had any intention to mine" at Orkney, in the North West or Grootvlei, located in Springs, Gauteng.

Instead, he said, it merely enriched its directors and consultants and in the process ruined labourers' lives and tarnished the local mining industry's reputation.

Du Plessis said concerned foreign investors saw it as a case of "institutionalised corruption".

One company had shifted funds that had been earmarked for South African operations to South America as a result, he said.

  • Johnson - 2011-10-28 20:11

    aURORA/pamodzi is an exmaple of business SA ripping off the workers and expecting chinese investors to save them ( bail them out).

      Judith - 2011-10-29 11:13

      I note that it is relations of our President and his lawyer plus a relative of President Mandela's ripping off the workers in this case. I would not call this group "Business SA", but gold diggers who found that they could not run a gold mine and stripped it instead whilst leaving the workers unpaid and destitute

      Johnson - 2011-10-29 11:39

      The point I am making is that this does not correspond to SA business in general (obvious their are exceptions) Most have "white supremist" reactions like John Picarra above. So if we do not want "black supremists" to replace John Picarra then honest minded people need to stop this abuse. Aurora/Pamodzi/num whatever is an example of institutionalised racism. For NUMSA to expect chinese investors to pay for the mistakes of the past is corruption.

  • boatmedic - 2011-10-28 22:38

    Maybe they will start thinking of doing their jobs, than forever striking. There are many other people that would do the job for less... If you have nothing, anything is something.

  • jim.binnie - 2011-10-28 22:58

    Where are NUM etc coming from??. Nothing said when Aurora took over. Let us start thinking about the UNEMPLOYED in South Africa and not about the unionised employed workforce. I see lots of people looking for jobs who do not really care about anything except why they cannot get work - they just want a job and I also see lots of (unionised) workers who care nothing about "productivity" and only about "how much can I get for how little work I deliver". Somewhere in the middle we will find a solution but it will not be in the unionised environment where they only should only be caring about their reducing membership numbers ( I wonder why). The solution will be in the the will of the people to want to find work

  • Sterling Ferguson - 2011-10-29 08:14

    NUM should form a company and invest in this mine and let the workers buy shares in this company. This would be real transformation and not like the BEE deals.

      Johnson - 2011-10-29 21:17

      Workers want it for free. Numsa wants it for free too. I think Numsa would not want certain workers to buy shares especially from solidarity. No self respecting company from china would allow this because there needs to be harmony. Perhaps some western companies would provide this kind of aid and fix it in the price. However trying to sell scrap deal to chinese people is like america selling scrap aluminium to china which forms one of the largest export from USA to china. Scrap deal.

  • Blikskottel - 2011-10-29 08:49

    Why does NUM not take this to Zuma himself and get it sorted out. Surely the have an inside connection...or are they to ignorant to see that they are just chattels who are used to keep the ANC in power?

  • R.Suppards - 2011-10-29 22:37

    What is NUM bitching about They have the most politically correct employer any socialist worker could wish for. Or is your hypocrisy showing? Now you will REALLY have to WORK for a living. The Chinese are hard task masters. ENJOY.

  • Sterling Ferguson - 2011-10-30 04:02

    @Johnson, the unions in SA should be investing in startup businesses such as mining to transform the economy. One doesn't have to know the business but, hire manager to run the business. The unions didn't know how to run a casino but the unions money made Vagas.

      Johnson - 2011-10-30 09:39

      In the SA context union "money" somehow turns bad eg Corruption,mismanagement,hypocrisy,worker dissatisfaction,entitlement, productivity,crony capitalism,even racism,etc...

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