Women participation and empowerment is a key element of the 2017 Revised Mining Charter: But where is the women voice on this?

The 2017 Revised Mining Charter has created a lot of animosity between government, represented by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the mining houses, presented by the Chamber of Mines. The implementation of the Charter has been put on hold by a court injunction initiated by the Chamber of Mines. There is a high likelihood that the Charter will be implemented at later stage but with some amendments.

The spat the Chamber of Mine has had with the DMR, in particular the minister Mosebenzi Zwane, has diverted attention from what is genuinely good and bad about the Revised Charter. By personalising the debate on the Charter, debate on issues of substance which have potential positive impact to the mining communities and workers have been relegated.

One of the good elements of the Revised Charter, with going into details of its practicality which may a subjudice matter, is that of women participation and empowerment in the mining sector. Women being late comers to the mining sector, their participation and growth within the sector still needs external push.  

With women in South Africa constituting more than 50% of the population, the country’s vision of creating an all-inclusive developed society is not possible without women participation in mainstream economic activities of the country. Mining is one of the critical sectors of the South African economy, as such it is expected to play a role in creating employment and advancement opportunities for the women.

Women in the mining sector still face a number challenges. A 2015/2016 survey carried out by Sam Tambani Research Institute that involved 2 856 women  revealed that the two most critical challenges that women in the South African mining sector faced were lack of career progress and discrimination in decision making. The Revised Charter includes provisions that can potentially mitigate these two women-specific challenges under the sections on employment equity and human resource development.

Under employment equity section, the Revised Charter stipulates that women should constitute 25% of board and executive management positions of mining businesses. At senior and middle management levels, the representation of women should be 30% and 38% respectively. Lastly, 44% of all junior managers should be women. On the Human Resource, the Charter stipulates that 5% investment of the leviable amount should be devoted to skills development. By being pro-active, women can be trained at the employers’ costs to acquire the skills they need to progress in the work environment in the sector.

The delay in the implementing the Charter creates an opportunity for all stakeholders to take a moment to review and assess the potential impact of the Charter to its constituency, if implemented in the current the form or with amendments. What is clear is that the stakes in the mining sector that the Charter intents to influence are very high.

The voice of women in mining need to heard on the provisions and the practically of the charter based on their experiences in working in the mines.

Other stakeholders beyond women in mining, should too take keen interest in how the Revise Charter does or does not advance their interests. Those who find that the Charter indeed has a potential to serve their interests, like women in mining, they should come out and broadly add their voice in full or partial support of Revised Charter.

Business in mining, through the Chamber of Mines, is very clear of what it wants from the Charter and has demonstrated how far it is willing to go to protect its interests, but what about other stakeholders? Ultimately, all stakeholders should pro-actively ensure that the good about the 2017 Revised Mining Charter is not be lost and subdued by feud between the Chamber of Mines and the Department of Mineral Resources.

Challenges Facing Women in the Mining, Energy and Construction Sectors of South Africa: Persisting barriers to equity in the workplace

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This book captures the findings of one of the most in-depth and extensive researches ever undertaken on women’s welfare in the workplace. It focuses especially on the three previously male-dominated sectors of Mining, Energy and Construction. The book chronicles the challenges women continue to face in these sectors, and concludes with policy recommendations on how the barriers women face in the workplace can be mitigated and, ultimately, how they can be overcome.

Union and business efforts to increase productivity in the mining sector: A critical Reflection

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The aim of this paper is to examine the practicality of how mineworkers, organised under a trade union, can participate in employers’ productivity-increasing initiatives in a mutually beneficial way in South Africa. A critical analysis of the concept of productivity and its practical application in the mining business environment, including the aspect of relationship dynamics between mineworkers and employers is done. It is highlighted that defining productivity in the sector is subjective and characterised by information asymmetry in favour of the employers. Moreover, low productivity has frequently been used as a reason against mineworkers’ quest for higher wages; as a result, the concept is viewed with suspicion by mineworkers. For a trade union to aggressively encourage its members to participate in productivity initiatives at the workplace, it needs to get some assurance that its members will benefit from the resultant increase in productivity. This will require that mineworkers and employers have a prior agreement on the definition of productivity, the parameters to measure it, and the extent to which a change in productivity will influence workers’ wages and benefits. Given the precedent of mineworkers’ exploitation and the existing trust deficit between parties in South Africa’s mining sector, the onus lies on the side of mining businesses to demonstrate and convince unions that the productivity initiatives are not just another tool to exploit workers. Otherwise, there is no doubt that increased productivity can be beneficial for both mining businesses and mineworkers.

What is the likelihood that the Labour Relations Amendment Act (6 of 2014) will increase permanent employment in the construction sector?

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The South African government introduced the Labour Relations Amendment Act (6 of 2014), which came into effect on 1 January 2015. The aim of this paper is to review the likelihood that the Amended Act will increase permanent employment in the construction sector of South Africa. First, an analysis of the changing nature of employment in the construction sector is done and the factors responsible for the change are explored. It is specifically highlighted that permanent employment in the sector has persistently been lower than non-permanent employment, predominately due to sub-contracting. In addition, the bulk of the construction workforce is now recruited on short-term contracts through sub-contractors. As a result, the sector has low rates of organised labour. Close scrutiny of the Amended Act reveals significant changes pertaining to the regulation of non-permanent employment in the sector. The Amended Act introduces a clause that stipulates that fixed-term or temporary employees must be employed permanently after three months of employment, unless the employer can justify the temporary nature of their employment. Although this clause is meant to increase permanent employment in the sector, the likelihood of its success is low because of the cyclical and project-based nature of the construction industry. Employers will continue to have a justifiable reason for not offering permanent employment under the Amended Act. This paper recommends that there be a clause in the Amended Act that limits the extent of sub-contracting to specialist services not covered by the main contractor.

The National Minimum Wage Debate in South Africa: Not a Question of Better Wages at the Expense of more Jobs

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This paper reviews the debate on the introduction of a National Minimum Wage (NMW) in South Africa. It considers the literature on the employment effects of introducing the minimum wage system. It reviews some of the most prominent successful cases of a minimum wage, and highlights the challenges thereof. Drawing from the literature and selected country experiences, the paper concludes that a NMW can only be effective if it is part of broader social and economic policies and efficient labour market system. Specific to South Africa, it proposes that employers should pay a wage amounting to the standard minimum living levels, and/or appendage with some basic needs of the workers, based on the sectors. These costs and subsidies are to be carried by the employers.