On Tuesday 17 January 2017, members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) along with other members in the mining and engineering sector brought Petra Diamonds Mine in Cullian, east of Pretoria to a standstill over unpaid allowances since March of last year.
Workers haven’t reported for work since 9 January 2017, after the company failed to pay shift allowances despite it being stipulated on their contracts along with leave enhancements, which they automatically qualify for within 17 days of working on the project.
Members were contracted for 12 months to work on Mill Project on behalf of the mine, under their Sub-Contractor MDM Engineering. The project is estimated to be worth 80 million US Dollars (more than 1 Billion Rands).
Despite the size of the project, employees have only been receiving leave enhancement payments and no payment for shifts since the commencement of the project, last year March, Workers received a fraction of what is owed to them and others received as little as R4.65 as payment. This is nowhere near a living wage after working an 8-hour shift 5 days a week.
29 year-old member and MDM employee Bongani Mkhwanazi was disheartened at the current relationship with the company and lamented that they deserved the money owed to them as they worked very hard for it. .
“On Wednesday 18 January, the employer promised to pay the money but we were not paid our money in full. One of our fellow workers was paid as little as R4.65. We want the company to pay back our money. We all committed to our job and we deserve our money,” said Mkhwanazi.
The issue of short payments has been recurring and for employees like Thamsanqa Zuma, it is a tiring and worrisome procedure that should have been resolved in the beginning of the project. .His biggest fears is that they would not receive their hard-earned income, especially considering that the contract is soon coming to an end.
“The company has been short paying us since March 2016, we have not been paid for all of our shifts. We have brought the matter up countless times, and every time we do they acknowledge it, but the next month you will be short paid again,” he said.
Gauteng Regional Organizer Solomon Makhunga mediated the dispute Employees reached a deadlock with the employer after an MDM Engineering representative gave an evasive response that the workers were unhappy.
This resulted in a deadlock and an agreement was not reached on January 17, 2017 therefore another date was set for AMCU representatives to meet the employer the next day. .
Solomon Makhunga addressed members and explained that management was not responsive to their issues. In essence, representatives from Petra Diamonds Mine and the project sub- contractor MDM Engineering refuse to pay the workers for shifts. Makhunga further explained how they had requested two agreements which are the Service Level Agreement (SLR) and the Project Labour agreement between the mine and MDM Engineering to which they had been denied access to.
“We were denied access to the documents even after emphasising that we have majority rights at this mine which enables us to negotiate labour agreements for the workers’’
In conclusion Makhunga said a case will be opened against Petra Diamonds mine and MDM Engineering for denying AMCU the right access and negotiate the agreements and for refusing to pay the workers their shift bonuses. The employees stood firm with their decision, saying they will not go back to work until they are paid the money that is due to them