ohannesburg: The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has spoken out against plans by mining companies to retrench thousands as the mining sector in South Africa grapples with a deepening slide in commodity prices and rising costs.
“We applaud the Minister of Mineral Resources for the initiative that he has taken and the leadership he has demonstrated to get the stakeholders in the mining sector in South Africa to explore alternatives to retrenchments and re-skilling of mine workers,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza‚ chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission in a statement, reports Vatican Radio.
The commission called on the government‚ mining houses and laborers to consider broadening the terms of their engagement to include establishment of a comprehensive social compact in the mining sector.
“We agree with those who argue that the current global economic environment necessitates establishment of a social compact so as to ensure competitiveness and sustainability of our mining sector that is required to create and retain jobs.
“However‚ we believe that such a social compact should be built on the principle of wealth sharing‚ and not only on loss sharing‚” said Bishop Gabuza.
“This should include the establishment of a Worker Sustainability Wage Fund during the years of super-profits to ensure adequate provision for workers when the commodity prices fall.”
The commission also stressed the principles of putting people before profit and the common good should form the basis of the social compact.
“In the midst of low commodity prices we are told by some mining houses that mining is a business‚ and not a charity. We are told that in lean times mining is essentially about controlling costs‚ including labor costs‚ and disinvesting in loss-making assets so as to achieve better returns for shareholders as suppliers of capital.”
“We have always emphasized that mining should also be about the common good — and not only what is good for shareholders at the expense of the broader society. If the mining sector is serious about a social compact‚ it should embrace these principles,” the bishop said.