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AD HOC COMMITTEE ON MATTERS RELATING TO EX-MINEWORKERS UNION
14 November 2007
NATIONAL UNION OF MINEWORKERS & SECRETARY TO PARLIAMENT INPUT
Chairperson: Mr M Sonto (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Audio recording of meeting
The National Union of Mineworkers provided what information it had on the claim by Mr Nomazele’s group of former mineworkers as well as the claims emanating from the 1987 strike. It recalled that at one stage a payment had been made to the Chamber of Mines, which had given the money to the government. This had allegedly being paid to the former TBVC states. The National Union of Mineworkers did not administer pension and compensation funds but did make efforts to assist its members. It would help any mineworker, not just its members. It was noted that it was not always possible to determine whether a particular disease had been contracted on a mine or not. It was asked to draft recommendations about the matter of compensation being claimed by former mineworkers.
The Secretary to Parliament explained how the ex-mineworkers matter had arisen as former mineworkers had threatened to disrupt the recent Parliamentary Assembly in the Eastern Cape in September.
This Committee was asked to provide an interim report. It was recognised that more interaction was needed in order for the Committee to prepare its final report for Parliament.
The Chairperson explained that the Committee had been established to investigate the affairs of former mine workers and whether outstanding compensation was due to them. This Ad Hoc Committee would have to report back to Parliament.
Presentation by National Union of Mineworkers
Mr Fred Gona (Parliamentary Co-Coordinator, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)) apologised for not having prepared a written presentation. Relevant information could be provided in writing. He said there was an understanding about the need to share the experience of former mine workers. They had formed themselves into groups and organisations, particularly in the Eastern Cape (EC) and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). These were the people who had worked in the industry, both as members and as shop stewards.
The Chairperson acknowledged that this was a verbal presentation which would be followed by a written presentation. He asked the Members if this was acceptable.
Mr B Mkongi (ANC) accepted the situation. He pointed out that the proceedings were being recorded.
The Chairperson told the NUM delegation that they could continue.
Mr Gona said that he understood that complaints had been laid at Parliament’s door over a lack of compensation due to injuries. Some money had allegedly being transferred to the former Transkei government. They had consulted on the provisions relating to the eligibility of members. These related to the mining, energy and construction industries. Compensation was applicable where members had faced injury problems, loss of limbs and even death. NUM had assisted by improving working conditions and accident investigations. Recommendations had been passed on to the responsible authorities.
He said that one component was an important element of compensation, namely occupational disease and resulting death. NUM was assisting to ensure that the industry launched the necessary claims. Some compensation had been paid by the Department of Health and some by the Department of Labour. NUM did not administer any funds and was not even a conduit for funding. Compensation was paid directly by the relevant institution to the member or his family.
Mr Gona said that where NUM did support members it would possibly be in the form of setting up an independent trust. They had claimed from multi-national companies, such as the recent case regarding asbestos miners which had been settled in the United Kingdom. A ruling had been made in favour of the members, and the Asbestos Relief Trust had been established with NUM as one of the trustees. He stressed that NUM did not handle money itself.
He said that a situation had arisen some time previously. This was the Nomazele case in the EC. The matter had been referred to the EC provincial government and had ended up at the Presidency. There had been a sit-in at the Union Buildings in Pretoria when former mine workers, widows and families had been unsatisfied. There had been government intervention. NUM had organised transport for the people back to their homes.
Mr Gona said that they did not want to undermine their rights. People had been left in the lurch. NUM did not know what agreements had been reached or what the demands were. They had explained that those who qualified for compensation would be assisted. Some shop stewards had felt that they would be organising a continuation of the fight. NUM had tried to avoid interference at all costs. Members were South African citizens, and enjoyed the right of association. There had been some interaction with the Chamber of Mines.
Mr Peter Bailey (National Chairperson, Health and Safety, NUM) said that interventions had been made and agreements reached. There was a need for social responsibility in the form of clinics and proper health care. There had been an agreement and at a later stage an engagement regarding the trust. Litigation would be necessary if the agreement was not in place. NUM was more than willing to fight if necessary.
He said that the Nomazele case had been misleading. It was a question of what they could get out. Compensation was not a reality. It was more a question of future compensation and the control of funds. This was between the NUM and the Chamber. NUM would not sit on the Board. The responsibility lay with the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) and no-one else, although this seemed like a pipe dream. NUM was highly conscious of the amount of suffering. There was a lot of manoeuvring. The situation must not be exploited.
The Chairperson said that the meeting was pressed for time, and asked if there was anything else NUM wished to say. He then invited Members to pose questions.
Ms F Mathibela (ANC) asked how long NUM membership lasted.
Mr E Lucas (IFP) asked if the complainants had ever been members of a Union. If so, he asked what the Union had done at the time that the mineworkers had contracted their illnesses.
Mr Mkongi said that there had been a previous presentation on the issue of membership. There was a clear question about NUM. If the complainants were not mineworkers they could not be members, so if a person’s contract with the mine was completed then he or she could no longer be a member of NUM. Such persons would then have to resort to other organisations to care for them.
The Chairperson asked at which point a member became a member. He asked if this was when he or she signed up with Theba, when that person arrived at the mine, or when that person signed up as a member of NUM. Some context was needed. He asked when membership of NUM stopped.
Mr Bailey replied that membership only commenced when the person signed up. He or she would only be entitled to benefits once the first payment had been received.
The Chairperson again asked when a person became a member.
Mr Bailey replied that this happened immediately on signing up with NUM. The membership ceased on resignation provided that the member found other work. In the case of dismissal, membership was retained as long as any case was still being pursued. He said that diseases such as silicosis were not detected at an early stage. It was possible that there could be forced dismissals. People often only found out later that they had contracted diseases. Engagement was needed with the Chamber of Mines. Consultation was available in established areas. NUM wished to establish a co-ordinating environment which would cater for complainants.
The Chairperson asked when membership of NUM expired.
Mr Gona said that membership ceased when members resigned or lost their employment. The trade unions were primarily established to organise workers into a body which would give them a collective voice. They were associations of workers. Membership would cease if a person left their company unless they found a new job in the industry within three months. In that case membership continued. There were various categories of membership. Distinctions were made between members who regularly paid their fees, and those who were not in good standing. Once a problem arose, it would be referred to discussions by health professionals. Members had come back to lay their grievances but did not resume their membership.
The Chairperson asked if NUM had a record of people who had contracted diseases. This might revert back to the long term situation.
Mr Bailey said this was easy to track. NUM had records as did all the trade unions.
The Chairperson observed that NUM was trying to open up the records.
Mr S Sibanyoni (ANC) had attended presentations by the Department of Health and the Department of Labour. The cases of former mine workers had been attended to. An amount of R54 million had been allocated for compensation. Old members had claimed compensation for diseases contracted while they were working on the mines. This had been understood to be the main concern. There was documentation from the strike of 1987.
Mr Mkongi asked about former mineworkers, and if they had formed their own bodies. There were other issues. Details of the strikes of 1987 were important. There had been conflict in the hostels, and many people had fled. He asked if there was any follow-up in this regard.
Ms Mathibela asked how long a person could apply for compensation after leaving the industry. Many workers had come from Lesotho and other neighbouring countries.
Mr Bailey said that it was important to emphasise the significance of the 1987 strikes. There had been many casualties. There had been other strikes. NUM had no money. The Chamber of Mines was the core of the mining industry. The strikes of 1987 had shaken the industry. Dismissals had taken place. He was not sure what had actually been done. The basic take was that mine workers had been exposed to hazardous substances which later caused disease. It was sometimes a challenge to prove that mining activities were the cause of disease. If people were not compensated, then NUM would have to take up the issue with the DME.
Mr Gona said that R50 million had been awarded in compensation. He did not have the details. Some of it had been sent to the Transkei government. He did not know what had happened there. There could still be compensation. Different diseases had manifested later. Silicosis in particular could be latent for some time. NUM would assist where possible. The procedures were there. Theba was the agency which recruited workers in rural areas and the neighbouring states. Financial arrangements included provident funds. No money went to NUM. When workers went on strike, the principle of no work, no pay applied. Workers were also dismissed. In 1987 all measures had been taken to fight the workers. Various measures had been taken to break the strike. It was realised that matters were getting out of hand. There had also been black on black violence. This had also been the case in 1983. Matters had been discussed within NUM and the DME. It was not a NUM responsibility. No money had been given to NUM. Their books had been inspected. Workers had tried to push NUM into activism.
The Chairperson said that there had been an agreement with the Chamber of Mines. He said that in terms of the rules of Parliament, he requested permission for some interaction with the Secretary of Parliament.
Presentation by Secretary to Parliament
Mr Zingali Dingane (Secretary to Parliament) said that this was the first time that he was interacting. People could write a letter to Parliament in the form of a petition, which would go to the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA). The issue with the former mine workers had not been handled properly. He had written to the Department of Labour (DoL) to establish a procedure for dealing with the matter. On 15 September he had been confronted by Mr Nomezele’s group. There had been a letter detailing an alleged complaint and that Parliament had done nothing. He had been confronted by people in the EC before the People’s Assembly at Mbizana, and they had threatened to stop the Assembly from proceeding. Bloodshed had been threatened. He had spoken to the DoL and the Presidency to find out what had been promised. Marches had occurred in Pretoria. The matter had been addressed. He had been informed about some troublemakers. His understanding was that there were some, but the problem was a valid one.
He said that during the strikes many people had gone home in the thought that they would be paid. They thought their claims would be given to the Chamber of Mines, but the money was thought to have gone to the TBVC states. These states had eventually being taken over by the new government. The money therefore had to be given to its rightful owners. The new government had promised to investigate as to who was entitled to the money. While the investigation was underway, each member had been given an R800 voucher per month. This had been facilitated by the DoL and the Presidency. Provincial government also helped. The EC government and the DoL had made reports. He said that of the 20 000 people who had registered claims, only 11 000 were found to be qualified after analysis. Some were children or widows of deceased former mine workers. Some did not have genuine claims.
He said that there was a need to separate troublemakers from genuine claimants. If the claims were true, then the money should be there. He asked why people could not be paid out to alleviate hardship.
The Chairperson said that the questions had been answered. Individuals identified as troublemakers were playing a chameleon game. They presented themselves as former mineworkers but had been sent away only to reappear again as former mineworkers. He asked how long government could entertain such persons. Some stakeholders had lists of beneficiaries. Some qualified while others did not. It was a case that someone would have to ponder.
Mr Mkongi said that there were two issues. The first was the money allegedly paid to the Transkei, and the other the 1987 strike. The issues raised related to the strike.
Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) said that only information was needed. They could remain engaged.
The Chairperson said that Dr Barker had had input the previous day.
Dr F Barker (Chamber of Mines) raised the point that the Chamber had not paid money to the TBVC states. This was incorrect. The money had been paid to the old government, who in their turn had paid it to these states.
Mr G Doidge (Chairperson of National Assembly Committees) said that the Secretary was under pressure. He was not present to verify his actions. He must commend NUM. The issues had been crystallised. He recommended that Theba attend the Committee. There was an allegation of misuse of money and an allegation about the idea of NUM. He wanted information from Mr Mansura.
Mr K Mansura (Secretary to National Assembly) said the House must know where it was going to. Perhaps it was time for the Committee to report in the interim?
The Chairperson said this was good legal advice. It must be determined who qualified for compensation. An agreement with the Chamber was needed on how to deal with the issue. Some compensation had been paid already. It was an umbrella challenge to take on what was being said. An overarching approach was needed. People who qualified had to be traced. The DME was responsible for monitoring and evaluation.
Mr Bailey (NUM) said there was an agreement with the Chamber of Mines regarding the exposure to occupational disease. This had nothing to do with statutory compensation and structures. This was over and above negligence by mines. NUM was in the process of setting up facilities and tracking data to determine where the people were. It was a complex situation. NUM would never discriminate whether people were or were not members. The burden must be eased. All mineworkers were treated as if they were members of NUM. The DME was responsible for legislation. If a worker was dismissed with an occupational disease then the individual must take full responsibility. This would apply from now on.
Mr Nefolovhodwe asked when they would reach the nitty gritty. He had more knowledge about the industry. The Chamber would assist.
The Chairperson said that this should be in the written presentation. They would assist with the recommendations.
Mr Lucas asked about the reporting of occupational diseases. He asked if a doctor could ascertain whether such diseases had been contracted at the mine or not.
Ms Mathibela said that payment was made without discrimination. Former mineworkers had said that a group had died in KZN. They had not been paid compensation to date. NUM had paid each family R1 150.
Mr Bailey (NUM) said that a decision had been taken by the organisation. NUM would pay R2 500 for funeral expenses. If NUM was responsible to the people, then it would find money from its coffers to assist. It had never taken money from any institute on behalf of its members. Money was the cause of all evil. Trust funds were run by trustees. Money created problems. NUM was more than willing to assist. It was resolving matters in the best interests of society at large. There was a way to determine where occupational diseases had been contracted. They could have originated way back in the past. Silicosis came from the gold mines. It was not so easy to determine the origin of tuberculosis. There was a difference of opinion on this matter. It was hard to determine the origin when it only manifested itself later.
Mr Gona said that diseases such as silicosis and tuberculosis resulted from an exposure to dust. Dr Sofie Hasting had gathered records in the community health field. There was an angle of emphasis on society in general. There was literature on the subject.
Mr Bailey said that only an existing occupational disease could be coupled to tuberculosis. It was a curable illness. It was hard to say if the disease could have been contracted as far back as 1987. It was much easier to prove if tuberculosis was coupled to an occupation disease.
The Chairperson said that NUM had not been called because it was the guilty party, but rather as a stakeholder that could solve a problem. They must feel free to assist the Committee, which wanted to make recommendations to Parliament as a way to solve the problem. The DME should also assist. He looked forward to their assistance and input.
Mr Gona said that NUM wanted to be efficient in its draft recommendations. It would have to trace the problem. It would try to suggest concrete steps.
Mr Bailey said that NUM appreciated the opportunity to better the lives of its members and of society at large. There was a need to act in the workplace. They had never felt guilty or threatened.
Mr Mziwakhle Ntlaphan (Unit Head of Health and Safety, NUM) asked what the timeframe was.
The Chairperson replied that the deadline would be 22 November. The Committee would be synthesizing its report, and the input from NUM should be received earlier. The deadline would be the following week. He excused the delegation from NUM. He discussed the Committee’s intentions with the Members. Interaction was needed with the Provident Fund and Theba. It was agreed that a meeting would be held the following week with the two bodies. The Committee’s report would also have to be presented and deliberated.
The meeting was adjourned.
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