Mineworkers have expressed grave concern over trend in the mining industry, saying when the sector hit the storm in terms of falling gold price, companies resort to measures that put them at great disadvantage.
“…when we hit the storm in terms of gold price, managements of the mining companies tend to behave like an aero plane that had turbulence with the pilots of the plane telling the passengers that they will be dropping them, because as pilots they want to survive, they don’t want to crash.
“That is the story of workers in the mining sector,” the General Secretary of the Ghana Mineworkers’ Union (GMWU), Mr Prince William Ankrah lamented on behalf of the mineworkers said at the Union’s national executive council meeting in Obuasi recently.
He said from 2008 when on average gold price rose by three hundred dollars, the sector saw “reckless mergers and acquisitions, reckless procurement and spending patterns.
“There was reckless influx of expatriates with no value addition, just coming to really enjoy at the expense of those who sweat in the bowels of the earth to produce the wealth of this great nation in terms of foreign exchange reserves,” Mr Ankrah added.
Recent commentaries about the mining industry, he noted, portrayed a picture that seemed to suggest “we are going to write the obituary of the mining industry.”
“We have been there before or have seen price fall in gold price in the past. But smartly we survived as an industry. I thought we learnt some lessons, but it appears that we did not learn those lessons well.”
The year 1999 was a turbulent time when gold price plummeted to about 250 dollars and Mr Ankrah said they took the right decisions that made them to survive. He said: “Notable among them was that we prone down benefits in contracts and this affected GMWU members, they had problem with their union leadership. But along the line, business leader did not do anything in terms of their conditions of service and to me that is indeed hypocritical.”
Besides this, he said, these same bosses had options that cash in when the share price goes up. “They are market watchers and they cash in big time as soon as the trend in the mining industry looks very exciting. So in terms of real security they are in paradise.”
To change the trend, Mr Ankrah said they (union members) had to walk that journey together to an extent that they could see their members earning a pound of their sweat.
He said the GMWU believed in enlightened radicalism, which he explained: “So the GMWU will engage progressively, will hear and listen to the managements of the mining companies, dissect the issues, come along with them, look at the entire cost structure and as to whether they need to shed even if only one member or workers.
“In this regard, I want the captains of the mining industry in Ghana to get it very clear that we will not stand in their way when it comes to redundancies but that will be done only when that becomes the ultimate.
“Any lazy manager’s first option of just laying people off is not what GMWU believes in. We will like to see managers who can think on their feet and device appropriate solutions.”
He said government grants mining companies a lot of capital allowances and yet they smuggled goods into the country and they did not pay the appropriate taxes on them. “They end up duping the country of revenue that it needs.”
“Last year, around this time Ghana had only cashed in three point two billion dollars from mining receipt. The figure for the same period this year, is two point two billion dollars.”
“Australia had cashed in big time on mining receipts and had made major inroads with regard to jobs infrastructure and other related areas. But where does Ghana finds itself?”
“The question we ask ourselves is what do we see here in Ghana’s mining communities – wretched infrastructure after one hundred years of mining? What are we bequeathing to the next generation? These are tough questions or issues we need to find solutions to.”
Mr Ankrah said the GMWU would support the decision of Anglogold to modernize its mines, but noted… ”…Anglogold should know that a mine that wants to modernize and attract world class skills should be prepared to pay world class salaries to its workers.”
“We have a situation where a mining company boss earns one hundred and ten thousand dollars ($110,000) a month, while the lowest paid person in that same company earns five hundred and seven dollars ($507) a month. The ratio is just ugly. Besides, this same boss has options when the share price goes up.”