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South African mining union calls for state intervention in mining job cuts

The president of South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union sharply criticized mining companies, particularly the platinum industry, over plans to cut thousands of jobs.

During his visit to the Joburg Indaba conference in Johannesburg, Joseph Mathunjwa said mining companies and the state focused more on profits than on skilling workers.

"It is a constitutional issue. We need to look at the constitution and transform to a social democracy to address the issue," Mathunjwa said.

Lonmin PLC and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. recently announced employee layoffs that will collectively see about 20,000 jobs axed. Both companies cited strategic restructuring as the reason for the move as they look to streamline loss-making operations.

However, Mathunjwa said mining companies would not sufficiently focus on skilling workers but instead chase ever-increasing production and returns.

"They are preparing for modernization and more profit. Jobs can be created if we stop singing about profit and money," he said. "These job losses are self-inflicted [by the companies]."

He also attacked mining executives for taking home excessive salaries while not paying their workforce enough.

Commenting on the ongoing wage negotiations in South Africa's gold sector, which employs close to 80,000 staff, he said the union regarded a minimum wage of 12,500 South African rand as acceptable.

Overall, Mathunjwa said he expects more job losses to materialize in the months and years to come unless the state steps up control.

Calling on the government to intervene, he said, "Revoke licenses, give them to the juniors and give jobs to the people. Take away the license and give it to stakeholders that actually seek to employ, give it to other potential miners."