Amcu in court to force minister to publish safety regulations in mines
An application by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to force the department of mineral resources and energy to set minimum standards for health and safety during the Covid-19 pandemic is set to be heard in the labour court on Wednesday morning.
The union said it brought the application after mining companies were given the green light to ramp up to 50% of production during phase five of the national lockdown, with production set to increase even more after May 1, when phase four 4 of the lockdown commences.
The case is set down for Wednesday at 10am via the Zoom remote meeting application.
Before approaching court, Amcu wrote numerous letters pleading with the minister of energy Gwede Mantashe to set health and safety standards for mineworkers who are uniquely vulnerable to Covid-19.
The union said this vulnerability included the peculiar risk posed by highly-congested working areas with low levels of natural ventilation, coupled with the high levels of predisposition caused by silicosis and tuberculosis.
Amcu fears this will lead to widespread infection among mineworkers as well as the communities that host them.
“However, the minister has ignored all Amcu's pleas and proposals thus far, and therefore Amcu was forced to approach court,” the union said.
Amcu brought the current application to the labour court last week. The court ordered Amcu to publish a note for interested parties to join the court action.
The union said since the application was launched, some mining companies as well as the Minerals Council had made a settlement offer to Amcu.
The union said it engaged constructively and proposed certain amendments to the standard operating procedure (OSP) proposed by the Minerals Council.
Amcu said only the department of mineral resources & energy and energy and Cogta opposed the relief sought by Amcu, with the department arguing that the current regulations were sufficient to protect mineworkers.
These departments hold the view that individual mining companies should be allowed to regulate themselves.
“As Amcu we want our state to take up its role as the regulator. They must be impartial and look after the interests of workers as well,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said.
Mathunjwa said the union remained positive that the court will see the sense of its application,
“Mineworkers cannot be sent to the slaughterhouse so that mining bosses can ensure their profits and bonuses. We need to know that workers are safe before they return to work and go underground,” Mathunjwa said.