Health and Safety after Marikana: The Impact of Union Rivalry in South African Mines

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Christine BISCHOFF, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Paul STEWART, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Andries BEZUIDENHOUT, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Unprecedented union rivalry followed the massacre of 34 mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana mine in 2012. A number of studies have looked at the reasons for the demise of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the rise of the Associated Mining and Construction Union (AMCU). However, very few studies have documented the impact of this shift on the less glamorous and politically charged day-to-day operations of mines, specifically matters related to health and safety. These less spectacular aspects of mining are important, given South Africa's dismal health and safety record and the historical importance of this in mobilising mine workers into unions. In this paper we explore this theme based on a survey conducted in four of South Africa's provinces, including some of the country's most prominent platinum, gold and coal mines. We find that the impact of union rivalry is highly uneven and that the NUM's operations have not been affected in some parts of the country. In others, though, companies have used the vacuum of representation to roll back gains made my the NUM over decades. We also found evidence where the provisioning of health and safety equipment is used as a bargaining tool by the two unions in order to outmaneuvre their rivals. The paper concludes with a number of recommendations on potential for future research.