Amcu has no proof that employers are not protecting miners: government
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has not tendered any evidence to prove that employers are not protecting miners from Covid-19, the government told the labour court.
Amcu has approached the labour court to force the department of mineral resources & energy to set minimum standards for health and safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The application follows a decision by the government to allow mines to operate at 50% capacity during the lockdown.
Mark Wesley, a lawyer representing the ministers of minerals and energy and co-operative governance & traditional affairs, on Wednesday submitted that the government was not opposed to putting interim measures in place.
However, the ministers, he said, were opposed to Amcu's application as far as evidence proving that employers were not already protecting workers.
Wesley argued that the union had not made any attempt to demonstrate that it had any reasonable apprehension that employers would not do so in the future.
“Mining companies are permitted to work during the lockdown subject to compliance with the regulations, which must include any direction issued in terms of the regulations.
“A mining company that does not comply with a direction is therefore not operating lawfully under the regulations and a failure to comply with a direction must result in that company losing its entitlement to operate under the regulations,” Wesley argued.
He argued that the mere fact that there was no criminal sanction imposed on employers who did not adhere to the regulations did not mean that the regulations were not binding.
“The minister [of minerals and energy] is in the process of issuing a direction requiring that every employer carrying out activities at a mine must implement appropriate measures to protect the health and safety of workers, which measures must be contained in a standard operating procedure and which must be developed in consultation with organised labour or worker representatives at the mine,” Wesley contended.
The ministers asked the court to make an order suspending the declaration of invalidity to afford them an opportunity to remedy what was found to be defective with the regulations, while still continuing to permit mining to continue in the interim.
“The department is as anxious as anyone ... It is interested in the safety of everyone. It does not object to putting interim measures in place,” Wesley said.
The matter will resume on Thursday.