Shanduka executive chairperson, Cyril Ramaphosa, says the practice of migrant workers returning to their homes only once or sometimes twice a year is inhumane.
In the second of a five-day Chamber of Mines- (CoM)-sponsored mass-media article print campaign on what the mining industry got wrong, Ramaphosa cites the infrequent opportunity to return home as a practice that undermines the social structure and economy of labour-sending areas.
In the double-page broadsheet advertorial – which also includes articles by National Union of Mineworkers general-secretary Frans Baleni, Webber Wentzel’s Africa mining head Peter Leon, Cadiz Corporate Solutions mining head Peter Major and scenario planner and former Anglo American executive Clem Sunter – Ramaphosa declares it a moral imperative for mining companies to attend holistically to the living experience of their workers.
Migrant labourers are, he says, never fully resident in the areas where they work, and are rarely present in the places they call home. But because of the dependence of the labour-sending areas on the wages of migrant workers, and in the absence of real economic development of these areas, “it is neither desirable nor feasible to end the practice of migrant labour”.
“If the business of mining depends on the displacement of workers, then addressing the impact of that displacement needs to become the responsibility of the mining company,” he says. Employers cannot merely confine their concerns to working conditions and need to assume far greater responsibility for the conditions under which workers live.
Workers living close to work in water- and electricity-reticulated dwellings and who are able to afford adequate nutrition and have vastly improved family lives, are likely to be more productive.
They are also likely to remain with the mine for longer, improving skill retention and increasing stability.