No end to youth jobs blame game
AS ALARM bells continue to ring about rising youth unemployment, the Chamber of Mines has accused unions of adding to the problem by blocking the implementation of the youth wage subsidy.
And the National Union of Mineworkers has called on the mining industry to change its focus from profits to speeding up transformation and fighting unemployment.
Speaking to The Times at the Mining Indaba in Midrand, yesterday, Bheki Sibiya, the chamber's CEO, said that though there was a need for the industry to change its mind-set to improve its competitiveness, unions must not block a subsidy that could create jobs for young people.
"[Trade union federation] Cosatu and the NUM are saying 'no' to youth subsidies and therefore they are saying don't subsidise the earnings of the youth to get employed.
"How should the mining industry change the mind-set of something that is being opposed by Cosatu? My view is that it [the youth wage subsidy] can [work]," he said.
Sibiya said this after captains of industry at the indaba debated the need to translate South Africa's recent climb in mining competitiveness globally into local economic opportunities to increase youth employment.
The implementation of the subsidy, involving a R5-billion tax credit to be introduced over three years, was postponed in April.
Cosatu has said the subsidy would lead to companies hiring younger, inexperienced workers merely to qualify for the subsidy, which could lead to their off-loading older employees.
Frans Baleni, the NUM's secretary-general, said the key driver in the creation of jobs was the government's plan to implement a beneficiation strategy that would result in raw minerals being processed in South Africa instead of in other countries.
"If we want to create more jobs, more employment opportunities, beneficiation is the way to go," Baleni said.
"China has more processing plants for chrome and yet we have the highest number of chrome reserves, about 80%.
"By exporting raw materials we are denying our country employment opportunities, revenue generation for the state and boosting our economy," he said.
Baleni's statement is in line with the ANC's proposal for a state-owned mining company contained in its discussion documents for its policy conference, scheduled to take place in Midrand later this month.
The formation of astate-owned mining company is expected to increase the industry's ability to beneficiate commodities mined locally.
Baleni called on the industry to change its attitude towards young South Africans, saying not enough was being done to train them and give them a chance of employment.
"The tendency of the industry is like soccer teams which are just grabbing players without training and developing them.
"The industry can do serious investment as far as the youth is concerned, learnerships and exposure in the mining industry.
"For about 33 years, young white males did learnerships and today they are CEOs and directors, and they came through that learning with no experience, but in our case, experience is required as if there is a university that will give you a certificate of experience," Baleni said.
Sibiya said discussions on beneficiation were required.
"If it is going to be an imposition, my view is it is unfair".