Ongoing mining strikes will have a massive affect on artisan training says ATI

It is a pity that a handful of entrepreneurs have become rich from black empowerment laws in the mining industry

October 30, 2012

It is a pity that a handful of entrepreneurs have become rich from black empowerment laws in the mining industry, while the vast bulk of people working in this sector have been left by the wayside – culminating in a series of wildcat strikes that have shattered the nation.

Mandisa Nyathikazi, a director of black-owned artisan training company, Artisan Training Institute (ATI), said “the tragedy is that all the good intentions of BEE seem to have been lost along the way and gone wrong”.

This, she said, might be for a number of reasons including the fact that it has been poorly implemented. This, whilst the country is addressing urgent poverty needs.

“The mining strikes, including the ill-fated Marikana bloodbath, are casting a worrying shadow over the social, economic and political landscape in South Africa.”

Nyathikazi said while wage demands are likely to cause a deeper level of retrenchments further down the line in the mining sector, labour and management still need to find a “common bridge”.

“When it comes to artisan training, 50% of our intake comes from mines – and this would be the same for most artisan training companies. If these strikes – and the uncertainly – continue in the mining industry, the training of artisans will abate. Rapidly.

“This is hugely worrying considering we have a large backlog in the number of artisans this country needs to train. Making this even more of a headache is the fact that, if the government’s mooted R800 billion investment in South Africa’s infrastructure does take root, the country’s already exacerbated shortage of trained artisans will get even more serious. If the government’s New Growth Path does create the work demand it says it will, then we will have to train 50 000 new artisans by 2015 – and at least 30 000 additional engineers by 2014.

“This is a tall order, even without the additional strain caused by the ongoing disarray in the mining sector. If this situation continues, you can be sure that mining companies will not be able to focus on training – and this will certainly affect the number of artisans that we can train.

“It is indeed a serious headache. What most people might not know is that mining artisans, once they qualify, can earn around R25 000 a month. But if the discord continues in the mining sector we will certainly see less artisans being trained. This will have a marked impact on society, and the upliftment of people – who can go from earning literally nothing to taking home more than R20 000 with overtime and other benefits.

“There is a huge disparity between mine owners/management and workers – and this has been aptly highlighted by the wildcat strikes. While it is arguably true to say that the wage demands – and some wage hikes – come at a time when mining companies, and the country at large, can ill afford it, it is understandable why there is a seething anger – because the workers feel they have been left off the gravy train.”
ATI is focused on training artisans in a wide range of engineering-focused skills, including fitters and turners, rigging, tool jig and dye makers, electricians, millwrights, welders, boilermakers, sheet metal workers, petrol and diesel mechanics, tractor mechanics, forklift mechanics, auto electricians and earth moving equipment mechanics