Mail & Guardian Photo - Mike Goldwater
I was outraged by the article by Felicity Duncan in Money Web entitled “Are These Guys Kidding?!” She is referring to the request by NUM for a 47% increase in the entry-level wage for surface mine workers and a 60% increase for underground mine workers.
My reaction would probably be the same if I based my reaction only on the quoted percentage increases of 47% and 60% requested by NUM. However consider for a moment that, if these increases were granted, it would only place entry-level miners monthly income, in Felicity Duncan's words, at about R7,000.
Can one even begin to imagine caring for a whole family each month with just R7,000, before tax and other deductions? Do you think you could ever afford to send your child to university on a salary of just R7,000 per month?
Felicity Duncan goes into a very intricate explanation to justify why she believes that the miner’s current incomes – and these are her words – are a “respectable amount compared to other South Africans”.
She explains how the mining industry is not in great shape. She explains the various factors that impact the mining industry, such as how the cost of electricity has shot up – unless of course you are BHP Billiton who pays less than it costs Eskom to generate the electricity. She explains how these wage demands run the risk of retrenchments and even mine closures.
Felicity Duncan is probably quite right in her analysis of the situation and what these wage demands will mean for the future of the mines and the miners employment prospects. However it seems that all attention is always directed at the ordinary miners at the bottom levels of the mines.
The focus is always on how these ordinary miners, earning these tiny little incomes, will impact on the future of these massive mining companies.
I do however wonder when Felicity Duncan and other journalists like her will take the time and find the courage to produce an analytical report, which reveals what board members, directors and other senior personnel in the mines are really sucking out of the mining companies coffers each month? What impact are they having on the sustainability of the mines?
When will journalists critically reveal what will undoubtedly be the not so “respectable amounts” that the big shots in the mines are earning every month, while the ordinary miners are told to suck it up and be grateful that they have work and receive the pittance they are paid?