Today's Labour News

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coalFinancial Mail reports that the destitute workers of Optimum Coal last received a pay cheque in October, and it’s thanks to charity workers and other community members, who recently formed a nonprofit organisation called Feed the Miner, that they are able to get by.  

It was in November that Optimum’s workers first realised they would not be paid.  Then, on 3 December, they were instructed to stay at home while the already long-delayed business rescue process dragged on.  Including contractors, the affected workforce totals 7,000, and the surrounding communities of Koornfontein, Komati and Hendrina are feeling the effect.  Local shops, already struggling to keep their doors open, are in no position to help with donations.  The mineworkers are torn on who to blame for their situation: the business rescue practitioners or power utility Eskom.  In 2016, Glencore was essentially forced by Eskom to sell Optimum Coal, which consists of the Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines, as well as their coal export allocations at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.  Eskom then helped Tegeta Exploration & Resources, owned by the Gupta family, to acquire it in a sweetheart deal.  Optimum was placed into business rescue after the Gupta empire unravelled.  However, Optimum’s rescue has faced numerous delays, including 44 court challenges brought against the rescue practitioners, all of them unsuccessful.  Now, it is the largest creditor, Eskom, that’s holding the rescue back.  Now, in a letter circulated to the workers, the practitioners have promised payment on 28 February.  Some are holding out hope that, this time, the promise of payment will be kept.  Others don’t have faith in the process any more.

Read Lisa Steyn’s comprehensive and informative report on this story at BusinessLive

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