Monthly archives: February, 2019

2000 miners rally over Amplats job cuts

Around 2000 mineworkers, angry at Anglo American Platinum’s plans to cut 6900 jobs in South Africa, protested on Tuesday, but said they would meet management before deciding on strike action.

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Miners gathered at the Khomanani shaft in the northern city of Rustenburg to protest against Amplats’s plan, announced days after the anniversary of police shooting dead 34 miners at the nearby Marikana mine.

“The workers are not happy with the job losses,” said Joseph Mathunjwa, president of main worker labour group the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

“Job losses should come as a last resort,” Mathunjwa told AFP.

But amid a wave of strikes that have roiled the sector, AMCU officials were set to meet with management on Wednesday to discuss options.

“We’re not going to strike right now,” said Gaddafi Mdoda, the branch leader at Khomanani, which is expected to close.

Miners voiced anger and fear about the plans, which would dramatically restructure operations to save costs.

“They never discussed it with us, now it’s happening,” said Mike Simane, 27, a surveyor who had just finished his shift underground.

“No one wants to lose their jobs.”

Themba, a 45-year-old worker, was unsure of his future after 23 years’ service at the mine.

“I’ve got a family. I feel very bad. People here, they’ve got families too,” he said.

Many said they feared the decision was retribution for joining the AMCU, an often militant labour union which has become a major political force by taking a hard-line position in wage talks.

“The workers think the employer wants to replace them with new workers, since they became AMCU,” said Mathunjwa.

High wage bills and increased electricity costs have obliterated the firm’s profits, and analysts warned of job cuts as early as last year following post-Marikana wage increases.

Amplats, the world’s top platinum producer, posted a net loss of 1.468 billion rand ($A159.98 million) in 2012, though it reported last month it had booked profits of 1.2 billion rand in the first half of 2013.

Many of the chanting crowd at the Khomanani shaft wore the trademark green t-shirts of the AMCU, which muscled out the once-dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at the mine in January.

The battle has left a trail of murders, with leaders of both unions the victims of apparent tit-for-tat killings.

Amplats had first proposed around 14,000 job cuts in January, but later backed down under government pressure.

The firm said some employees could opt for voluntary severance, early retirement and redeployment to avoid retrenchment.

The once-dominant NUM, now a minority union at the mine, said on Monday it condemned the restructuring “in the strongest words possible”.

The union accused Amplats of reneging on an earlier agreement to cut only 3000 jobs.

Amplats, which accounts for almost 40 per cent of global platinum sales, said it will aim for production of 2.2 million to 2.4 million platinum ounces per year.

The restructuring would be a hammer blow to the mining-dependent Rustenburg area, and for South Africa’s economy, which has seen glacial growth amid unemployment of more than 25 per cent.

Amplats has been one of several major international mining companies pummelled by labour unrest.

On Friday the comrades and families of 34 miners shot dead by South African police during a strike at the Marikana mine marked the first anniversary of the bloodbath, which shocked the world and the mining sector.


British judge rules man to be sterilised

A British judge has taken the unprecedented step of sanctioning the sterilisation of a man with the mental age of a child, ruling that it was in his best interest.

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The 36-year-old man already has a son and does not want to become a father again, but is unable to make decisions about using contraception, London’s High Court heard.

Judge Eleanor King ruled on Friday that the man, referred to only as “DE” in court proceedings, could be given a vasectomy as having another child could cause him “serious psychological distress”.

“I have reached the conclusion that a vasectomy is undoubtedly in DE’s best interests after having heard all the evidence,” she said.

The man does not have the capacity to give his consent to the vasectomy, the court heard.

His family and doctors have backed the move but the decision – the first of its kind in Britain – had to be made by a judge.

Experts say he has an IQ of 40, meaning he has the mental age of a child aged between six and nine. He is unable to live alone, has limited speech and cannot use money, King said.

He and his girlfriend, who also suffers from severe learning difficulties, had a son in 2010.

The court heard that the couple have been together for 10 years but do not currently see each other without supervision, in order to “keep them safe”.

A vasectomy will allow the man to resume a sexual relationship with his girlfriend, the judge said.

King said in her ruling that DE, described as a “friendly, gentle person”, was greatly distressed by the birth of his son and did not comprehend that it had resulted from having sex with his girlfriend.

The child is cared for by the girlfriend’s family, she added.

King paid tribute to the man’s parents, saying they had “worked tirelessly to give him the best possible quality of life and in particular to ensure that he has as much independence and autonomy as can possibly be achieved”.

DE has “prospered and achieved far beyond what may have been expected given his level of disability” thanks to their care, she added, including managing to work at a local market stall.


Queensland health workers say cuts fail Gap commitment

Many Indigenous health positions have been axed in a cost-cutting campaign which will see an end to 4,000 Queensland Health jobs and many services.

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The state government says federal funding cuts, little evidence of outcomes, and duplication of services, meant many Indigenous health programs programs had to go.

 

Now Queensland is now turning to Indigenous community-controlled health services to deliver where Queensland Health once used to.

 

Stefan Armbruster reports.

 

“To save money it’s going to cost lives and in our communities we are very concerned because our workers are part of these communities, and when the Queensland government is slashing and saving pennies, I think it’s going to cause more deaths in our communities.”

 

A grim forecast from Clarke Scott, CEO of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Health Worker Association.

 

It’s a sentiment echoing through many parts the Indigenous health sector in Queensland.

 

From the Torres Strait to Brisbane the list of job cuts is extensive.

 

Beth Mohle from the Queensland Nurses Union has been compiling the numbers from Queensland Health’s own figures.

 

“Alcohol and drug services, things like diabetes education, renal services, heart disease, deadly ears, mental health services, you name it. Wherever there is Indigenous social disadvantage, there’s been services that have been cut.”

 

The federal government is unimpressed.

 

Warren Snowdon is the federal minister for Indigenous health.

 

“Ultimately, the delivery of primary healthcare is the responsibility of the Queensland government. We want to make sure no actions by any government lead to a worse health outcome for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That’s what I’m concerned about, and if drawing away staff from preventative health or public health means people get a poorer health outcome, that’s a grave concern to me and should be a grave concern for the whole Queensland community.”

 

The Close The Gap target for health is to reach parity in life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people by 2033, and halving of infant mortality for under-fives by 2018.

 

Queensland’s health minister, Lawrence Springborg, says the government is committed but needs to radically overhaul the health system.

 

“When it came to Closing the Gap, the thing that disturbed me the most when I became minister was the lack of real proper indicators with real-time information around the programs that Queensland Health had been funding and we’re going to change that. And the other thing is there’s been enormous duplication, which the Indigenous organisations themselves agree, where we have Queensland Health going in and doing a similar thing that a funded indigenous health organisation will do and probably resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of wasted resources.”

 

Lawrence Springborg also blames shortfalls in federal funding.

 

“The other big impact that our hospital and health services are suffering from is Mr Snowdon and Wayne Swan cutting $103 million out of our health budget in December last year.”

 

Federal Indigenous health minister Warren Snowdon believes that’s not a legitimate excuse.

 

“No, I don’t think it is. Frankly it’s about their obligation to their own community, and to understand they are the primary driver and deliverer of health services, not the Commonwealth government.”

 

Figures available from five of seventeen Queensland health regions show at least 80 jobs are gone that deal specifically with Indigenous health, are filled by Indigenous people or dealing mainly with Indigenous patients.

 

The Nurse’s Union’s Beth Mohle says if the numbers for the other 12 regions are similar, then the indigenous health sector is carrying a larger proportion of the 4000 Queensland Health job cuts than their share of the state’s population.

 

“So it’s disproportionately falling on Indigenous health workers in local communities, and some communities are being devastated by it, like Cape York and Torres Strait.”

 

Many Indigenous Queensland Health employees are classified as health workers and play a vital role in communities, as Clarke Scott explains.

 

“There’s been research done that health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people are better when there’s the involvement of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander health worker. It’s that connection to the community, no-one else can provide that.”

 

Most of their jobs are gone.

 

Also cut is training for Queensland Health’s Indigenous workers.

 

Suzanne Plater is the coordinator of Indigenous Health Promotion at Sydney University’s School of Public Health.

 

Almost two-thirds of the course was until recently filled with Queenslanders; now there are almost none.

 

“We still have a full cohort, so it’s not about our course numbers, it’s just such a shame that such a vigorous building of the workforce in Queensland has been stopped dead in its tracks, and I believe quite a few of our graduates have also lost their jobs. So they put all this into coming to university, put their lives on hold for a year and worked really hard, did what they were asked to do by their workplaces, and have now lost their jobs.”

 

It’s not all negative.

 

Last year, the Indigenous community-controlled sector lost millions in funding for preventative health, mental health and drug and alcohol-related services.

 

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council accused the government of turning its back on indigenous health.

 

The Council’s CEO, Selwyn Button, says that’s changed.

 

“Yes we do have a different view now and the different view has been as a result of the investment we have been able to get out of Queensland government to support the growth strategies in community-controlled services.”

 

The 23-year-old organisation represents 26 community-controlled health services and there has been a big expansion, particularly in south-east Queensland.

 

“It is at the expense of Queensland Health and at the expense of government-run services, and from the community-controlled perspective, because we’ve got the evidence, because we’ve got the data, because we can show the improvement. Essentially what it does do, and it isn’t spoken about a great deal, it significantly drives that whole notion of self-determination, because it’s about giving responsibility, ownership and accountability to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people to make a difference for their own mob.”

 

Health minister Lawrence Springborg says Close The Gap in Queensland is coming from a very low base.

 

“It’s been probably a D minus. We need to be lifting the results and getting better outcomes for our investment and if a community-controlled organisation can provide guidance and make things work, then we should be doing more of it and we’ll be doing that.”

 

Queensland Nurses Union’s Beth Mohle says it’s not a new policy.

 

“It’s a very complex process to move towards that, it’s not an easy thing to do. We were working collaboratively with the previous government to do that, and if they think it’s going to be a quick and easy solution, it’s not. The cuts are being made far too fast with no thought.”

 

But National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association CEO, Clarke Scott, has little faith in Queensland’s approach to Close The Gap.

 

“I don’t think there is a commitment there at all.”

 

Selwyn Button says there’s a lot of work to be done.

 

“I think at this point there is willingness to want to contribute, there is willingness to want to work together and partner, so at the moment out of 10, we’re at a 6 and I think it can improve.”

 


Rabbitohs to bounce back: Slater

Billy Slater expects South Sydney to strike back hard from their form dip when they play Melbourne in Friday’s NRL blockbuster, despite missing key players Greg Inglis and John Sutton.

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Game-breaker Inglis on Monday ruled out of an early return from his State of Origin III knee injury against his former club in the AAMI Park clash, while five-eighth John Sutton has joined him on Souths’ injured list.

The Rabbitohs are coming off a punishing 30-12 loss to the Cowboys – their second defeat by a low-ranked team in three weeks – while Melbourne burst back to form with their record-breaking 68-4 thrashing of Canberra.

Slater scored two of the Storm’s 12 tries which formed a stunning re-statement of their premiership credentials.

The Test fullback believes other finals-contending teams – Souths included – will also be hitting their straps with the regular season finish line just five rounds way, though the State of Origin period was especially hard for Melbourne.

“It’s a tough period because the (Storm) guys that are out are the playmakers and the guys who direct the traffic around,” said Slater.

“We’re through it now … but it’s not just us, I think you’ll find every team hitting a bit of form over the next month or so.”

Regardless of the contrasting last round form and the injuries, Slater said the second-placed Rabbitohs were still formidable opponents for fourth-placed Melbourne.

“Whether they’ve got Greg Inglis or John Sutton in their side (or not), they’ve still got the Burgess boys, young Adam Reynolds who’s playing really well and they’ve got some great outside backs,” said Slater.

“Obviously no-one likes losing, especially after they’ve been winning so consistently over the year, I’m sure they’ll be back on track.

“We’re going to have to play well to beat them.”

Slater said Souths under the tutelage of Michael Maguire, who spent five years under Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy between 2005 and 2009, wouldn’t let their season slip away.

“They’re going to bounce back,” Slater said.

“They’re a great side and they’re coached by a very knowledgeable coach and I’m sure he’s going to make sure that they turn up in a great frame of mind.”


Panesar quits Sussex, aims for Test recall

Troubled England spinner Monty Panesar apologised for letting Sussex down and said he was aiming to regain his Test place as he announced on Monday he was quitting the south-coast county.

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The 31-year-old left-armer was fined by police for urinating on bouncers after he was ejected from a Brighton nightclub on August 5.

“I apologise for letting the club, my colleagues and my fans down,” said Panesar, who has been linked with a return to Northamptonshire, the club where he made his name.

“I am determined to do whatever it takes to gain selection for England this winter. I want to become the best I can be.”

Sussex conducted their own investigation into the incident and on Monday issued a statement confirming Panesar had played his last game for the club.

They also said Panesar would become a free agent as of September 27 and that they’d agreed to his request to play on loan for a club in the Second Division of the County Championship until the end of the season.

Panesar added: “I am grateful to Sussex for allowing me to be released from my contract for 2014 and 2015 in order to explore other opportunities to further develop my cricket. I want to give myself the best chance of playing all forms of the game at the highest level.

“I would like to thank Sussex for the opportunities, experiences and support I have enjoyed at the club since 2010, and my gratitude for the contribution Sussex have made in providing me with a platform to gain selection for England on three successive winter tours.

“I have endured a challenging time this year off the field and my frustrations have sometimes got the better of me professionally,” Panesar, whose wife is reportedly filing for divorce, added.

Panesar played the last of his 48 Tests against New Zealand in Auckland in March but was included in England’s squad for the drawn third Ashes Test against Australia at Old Trafford.

“I believe that if I maintain the bowling progress I have made in recent weeks which enabled me to be selected for the Test squad at Old Trafford, I can fulfil my long-held ambition of becoming the best spin bowler in the world, over time,” Panesar said.

Panesar, who has taken 164 Test wickets at 33.78, was left out of England’s squad for the Ashes finale at The Oval starting Wednesday, with Lancashire’s uncapped left-armer Simon Kerrigan included as a second spinner behind off-break bowler Graeme Swann.

England, who’ve retained the Ashes, have an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.