Head of employment relations for the Chamber of Mines, Motsamai Mohlamme, says that the decision for coal mine companies to work with companies rather than with unions is one that related to efficiency.
Mohlamme says that since the chamber is no longer the representative of the coal sector, only seven out of twenty-one companies are represented through the chamber and this means that the bulk of workers in the coal mining sector are not represented and it would make sense for the remaining seven to follow suit with decentralized representation.
He adds that as these seven companies are different sizes and therefore have different needs thus it would be easier for coal mining companies to negotiate with the companies directly, rather than go through the unions.
“Currently as it is, if companies give offers and four accept, but two do not and the two move for a strike, the strike happens with all six of the companies and not just the two that disagreed with the offer,” he says.
As such, decentralizing the bargaining forum would save time as well as unnecessary strikes and companies and coal mine employees would be able to negotiate terms of employment and wages where settlement offers are made.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has threatened the Chamber with a dispute at the CCMA and also national strike action, while Solidarity has asked the Chamber to reconsider its decision. If the Chamber sticks to its guns, the current wage agreement they have with the unions remains until June 2017, where after, they will pursue dealing with companies directly.