Gauteng Business News

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Construction: More Than 50% Of Workers at Helam Mining Could Be Retrenched


Recent Gauteng Business News

Solidarity halts mine’s attempts to wrap up retrenchments without consultations

Petra Diamonds, one of the world’s largest independent diamond mines, plans on retrenching more than 50% of its employees at its Helam mine in Swartruggens. The mine will be placed on care and maintenance, in accordance with the Section 189 notice sent to trade unions on Friday.

Last week Solidarity thwarted the mine’s plans to quickly conclude the retrenchments without consultation and demanded to get involved in the consultation process in terms of the Labour Relations Act. This comes after Petra Diamonds only consulted with one trade union regarding the possible retrenchments. However, Solidarity has in the meantime received an official Section 189 notice.

“In terms of the Labour Relations Act, an employer must consult with all registered trade unions whose members could be affected by the Section 189 process. However, Petra Diamonds blatantly neglected to follow the legal process and therefore attempted to get the retrenchments carried through as quickly as possible in an unfair and illegal manner,” explains Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans.

According to the notice sent to Solidarity on Friday, management is considering the retrenchment of about 350 of the mine’s 669 employees. The impact of the current international economic crisis, the drop in the demand for diamonds and Helam’s poor production levels are the reasons offered by the mine for the planned retrenchments.

“However, Solidarity is not convinced that the operational problems of the Helam mine are reason enough for the retrenchments. According to the group’s financial reports, the mechanisation process currently being implemented at Helam will already bring about a reduction in operational costs by next year, which will deliver higher productivity at the mine by 2010,” says Kleynhans.

Meanwhile, the group’s provisional annual report, released in September, shows that the group is now trying to increase the grade of diamonds from its Fissure mines – which comprises the Helam, Sedibeng and Star mines – instead of increasing the carat quantity of diamonds mined. Furthermore, Petra Diamond’s finances are in top shape, according to Kleynhans, with the Fissure mines showing $26,3 million in income from sales for the financial year up to 30 June 2008. In the previous financial year, the Fissure mines got nearly $16,7 million in income from sales.

Employees are expected to be retrenched already by the end of February, or even earlier. Solidarity and other trade unions at Helam will have the first retrenchment meeting with management this coming Monday, 8 December.

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