R1.5bn

THE COM­PEN­SA­TION THAT COULD BE­COME AVAIL­ABLE TO THOU­SANDS OF MINE WORK­ERS ONCE CON­FLICT­ING LEG­IS­LA­TION IS RE­VIEWED

CityPress - - Business - XOLANI MBAN­JWA xolani.mban­jwa@city­press.co.za

Thou­sands of mine work­ers who left with­out pay­outs be­cause of the coun­try’s frag­mented com­pen­sa­tion laws could this year have ac­cess to at least R1.5 bil­lion, which could be paid out once two pieces of con­flict­ing leg­is­la­tion are re­viewed. David Msiza, act­ing di­rec­tor-gen­eral for the depart­ment of min­eral re­sources, said that talks be­tween min­ing com­pa­nies and the de­part­ments of labour, health and min­eral re­sources on the re­view of the Oc­cu­pa­tional Dis­eases in Mines and Works Act, and the Com­pen­sa­tion for Oc­cu­pa­tional In­juries and Dis­eases Act, would lead to for­malised com­pen­sa­tion for mine work­ers.

The re­form of com­pen­sa­tion poli­cies has been a thorny is­sue since the early 1990s and pre­vi­ous at­tempts to merge the poli­cies have failed.

At least 700 000 mine work­ers have claimed com­pen­sa­tion un­der the Com­pen­sa­tion for Oc­cu­pa­tional In­juries and Dis­eases Act, but prob­lems, in­clud­ing a lack of ca­pac­ity, re­jec­tion by the banks and in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by the claimants, have ham­strung the com­pen­sa­tion process.

“Re­gret­tably, be­cause of past ex­po­sure to harm­ful sub­stances, mine work­ers con­tracted oc­cu­pa­tional dis­eases. The re­form will help ex­pe­dite pay­ments where there is a back­log in pay­outs. This is the be­gin­ning of a long process that will hope­fully be re­solved soon,” said Msiza.

Govern­ment wants an agree­ment on re­formed com­pen­sa­tion poli­cies by all par­ties by De­cem­ber.

Changes are ex­pected to trans­form mine work­ers’ lives as their com­pen­sa­tion will be greater when they are paid out for work-re­lated lung and heart dis­eases, in­clud­ing tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and sil­i­co­sis.

The depart­ment of min­eral re­sources has set up on­estop ser­vice cen­tres in the East­ern Cape and Lim­popo, while an­other is planned for the North­ern Cape to help for­mer mine work­ers from coun­tries in­clud­ing Le­sotho, Mozam­bique, Swazi­land and Botswana ac­cess the com­pen­sa­tion.

The main fo­cus for the depart­ment, how­ever, is the preven­tion of oc­cu­pa­tional dis­eases, in­juries and death.

“Our ma­jor ob­jec­tive is en­sur­ing zero harm to work­ers. We’re fo­cused on com­pen­sa­tion re­form and pri­ori­tis­ing pay­ments, but we are also look­ing at the pre­ven­ta­tive aspects of oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety. We’re not there yet, but we want to im­prove,” said Msiza.

More than 104 000 for­mer mine work­ers are en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion af­ter con­tract­ing sil­i­co­sis as­besto­sis, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, chronic ob­struc­tive air­ways dis­ease, pro­gres­sive sys­tem­atic scle­ro­sis and lung can­cer.

The Na­tional Union of Minework­ers said it was ex­cited about govern­ment’s tar­get to com­plete the re­view process by the end of the year.

PHOTO: EL­IZ­A­BETH SE­JAKE

UN­DER THREAT

Thou­sands of mine work­ers suf­fer from oc­cu­pa­tional dis­eases

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