Holding mine bosses to account will reduce deaths
As thousands of delegates across more than 18 affiliates from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) are busy consolidating mandates from two million members for the upcoming national congress, expectations of the congress resolutions should remain the same - dealing with arrogant employers.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), for example, will be pushing hard for the congress to resolve on holding mining bosses accountable for health and safety in the mining sector. The union is on record calling on the mineral resources department to amend section 92 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, which refers to the penalties that could be applied when safety standards are not adhered to.
It is the union's belief that holding mining bosses accountable for safety will be the key to bringing down the death rate in South Africa's mines. The mining industry now sits at about 60 fatalities. One mine death is one too many.
To reduce mine deaths and accidents, the NUM demands mining houses be slapped with a fine in the event of an accident. This should be done even before inspections are conducted. Apart from the hefty upfront payment of a fine, the NUM also demands an inquiry to establish whether mine managers should be liable.
The NUM has on numerous occasions called for the Mine Health and Safety Act to be amended to allow for the prosecution of mine bosses if workers are killed underground. Mine owners must be held personally liable for lives lost underground. Perhaps if this is done, we will begin to see an end to fatalities.
Mining bosses who are found to be negligent for fatalities must be arrested, prosecuted and sent to jail. The issue of mine health and safety has long reached crisis proportions and requires desperate intervention.
The NUM is again of the view that section 23 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) which grants mineworkers the full right to refuse to work in dangerous operations needs to be strengthened. Currently, workers stand the risk of being charged by supervisors for failing to execute a lawful instruction.
The most serious fatality incidents in 2018 varied in nature from falls of ground following a seismic event, employees entering areas that should be off limits, and underground fire.
The NUM is looking forward to maximum participation by delegates at the Cosatu 13th national congress.
It will also be in the best interest of the union to see delegates using the platform to strengthen unity in the federation. We want to see a stronger Cosatu going forward. The congress should also be a stage where delegates share notes on how to push forward the struggle of the working class. An injury to one is an injury to all.