Compensation Summit for ex and current miners – correcting the past
A two day Integration of Compensation Systems Summit was held under the theme “Access to equitable, fair and sustainable compensation system for all workers” in Johannesburg on the 19th & 20th of May 2016.
It was hosted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), Department of Labour and the Department of Health.
The summit demonstrated a collective determination to address a legacy of over 150 years of poor working conditions. It started with an overview of current challenges in the compensation system particularly of current and ex- mine workers.
Currently, there are two regulatory laws in South Africa for occupational health and safety dealing with management and compensation. Compensation for Occupational Diseases and Injuries Act (COIDA) for which the Department of Labour is the custodian and the Occupational Diseases and Mine Works Act within the Department of Health. Although both these laws deal with the compensation for occupational diseases and injuries, there are differences between them in terms of conditions or reasons for compensation. It is against this background that in 1999, cabinet took a decision that the occupational health and safety legislation be integrated into one system.
During the summit, participants from government departments, employers, trade unions, ex mineworkers, TEBA, neighbouring country governments of Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique, the International Organization for Migration, the International Labour Organization, the World Bank and the Global fund, discussed the compensation challenges and possible remedial actions.
In his welcoming address, Inkosi Patekile Holomisa highlighted that the deliberations in the two days of the summit will eventually lead to increased awareness and focus on compensation issues which prevail in the South African mining industry.
Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi stressed that the importance of integrating the compensation systems is demonstrated by the fact that three government departments have been tasked with ensuring that this integration takes place. He noted that the summit marked a very important milestone as it seeks to address the vision contained in the National Development Plan.
Dr Motsoaledi shared that an estimated 1.5 million former mineworkers could be eligible for compensation, but that the fragmentation between the two laws had led to delays in the disbursement. The government’s decision to integrate the systems should speed up the process of determining eligibility and disbursement.
Among other representatives from the neighbouring countries, Minister of Labour and Employment of Lesotho government, Adv. Thulo Mahlakeng applauded the South African government for embarking on this initiative and taking the lead in the integration of compensation systems in South Africa. He said the summit was hosted at an opportune time when portability of social security benefits is high on the SADC agenda.
Chief of Mission for International Organization for Migration Mr Richard Ots spoke about the effects of tuberculosis in the society at large. He emphasized that the 21st century has been a challenging one in the fight against communicable and infectious diseases.
Mr Ots said that IOM is very excited to be part of the discussion and to contribute to the further development and implementation of the recommendations that will emanate from this summit. “It is important to note that IOM will also be part of the initiative to transform our world and the region through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
This tool and other strategic interventions by WHO and UNAIDS of managing HIV and ending TB, should help catalyse and expedite our response to the compensation and health challenges in the region.” said Mr Ots.
Mr Ots reminded the participants of the importance of an inclusive approach to the reforms, noting in particular that the presence of mineworkers and ex-mineworkers at the summit honors the slogan “nothing about us, without us”.
He closed by saying that the result of these discussions does not just affect migrants, colleagues and friends today, but that it leaves an important legacy for generations to come.
Through the envisaged integrated compensation system, government will ensure that workers and ex-workers in mines receive market related compensation benefits which provide for their sustainable welfare and that of their families.