skills-universe members who have human resource & personnel responsibilities
“We are illiterate” – three key words from the Farlam Marikana Report
16th Aug 2015 at 7:58 pm #29305
16 August 2015 – three years after the tragedy of Marikana.
The Farlam Commission Report published in June this year received criticism from a number of quarters.
But there has apparently been no criticism raised about the entire lack of attention to the company’s human resource management practices – employment, industrial relations – or skills development.
While the men sat on the koppie, they were approached by a management representative. He told them that management would not negotiate because they were not following the correct channels – but also asked them to put their concerns in writing.
The men responded: “we are illiterate”.
In the experience of human resource practitioners, trainers, educators, or other skills development practitioners – do adult men usually come forward so readily to indicate that they are illiterate?
Personal experience suggests not. So why are the men responding in that manner? Are they simply being deliberately difficult? Or is this some indication of a greater grievance that is not taken up, either by management at the time or by the Farlam Commission?
For the full article published on http://www.thehrportal.co.za please click on the following link:
17th Aug 2015 at 3:19 am #29330
What I find really frightening is that these unfortunate people (and many like them in the workplace) are financially illiterate. Had they not been, how could they have allowed their whole financial well beings to have been so severely compromised by such a protracted strike?
Although not a conspiracy theorist I have to believe that it is very much in the trade union’s interest to keep workers this way, but surely management of all industries should be spending billions on stamping out language, financial, and mathematical literacy amongst their labour forces and yet I don’t see this.
What I see is management attitude saying “We are not schools: this is a Government problem” thus adding more fuel to an already unstable time bomb.
17th Aug 2015 at 5:24 am #29329
17th Aug 2015 at 5:50 am #29328
I have found the following:
Literacy in English as the common business language – Bad
Financial Literacy – Non-Existent
The problem I find is that all learners, companies and government are at fault here.
Learners in class want to be spoon fed, they do not want to do the work/study or make the effort. They want everything provided to them.
Companies do not give the necessary time required to do training, portfolio, workplace and mentorship. They also do not provide the support needed and often leave the learners on their own with very little to no info on what they doing, why they doing, how long are they doing it for and what is required of them.
Government has created a complex system that requires more time spent on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and focus is on getting the correct admin done at the correct time, that the learners are needs are forgotten in the whole process. Everyone gets focused on getting the big C (Competent) then the actual understanding and knowledge that validates that C.
17th Aug 2015 at 5:50 am #29327
17th Aug 2015 at 5:54 am #29326
There are a few ways to look at this.
Perhaps there was functional, and procedural illiteracy amongst the mine workers. Perhaps they were just being difficult.
The management representative could have found an interpreter, for one. Management could have moved from a rules-based position to a solutions-focused stance. It is so easy to hide behind “Company rules”, yet it makes far more sense for us to simply sit down and work out a way together.
Charles makes an excellent point. It is not only management or the governments task to reduce illiteracy. Each one of us can be doing that in our homes and our communities. And the learning and lessons will be two-way. “Each one Teach One.”
In terms of the workers allowing their financial well-being to be dictated by others – none of us will ever understand the fears, the emotions, the struggling and suffering that these people had to endure – both before, during and after the strike. People who buck the union system, and mob rule, will simply be killed.
Financial literacy will definitely help. Yet Values-based leadership, as a way of life – in government, SAPS, management and labour unions – is the difference that could have averted this horrendous tragedy!
17th Aug 2015 at 5:55 am #29325
This sad reality questions the willingness of the mines to transform. Clearly it does work for them to have cheap unqualified labour as it was happening during apartheid. They are fighting as much as they can for the status quo to remain.
Being exposed and working in the mining area, the so called skills development is none existing, the mines will always use any means not to empower its employees, actually they use the same government legislation and acts NOT to train employees, they block all the government initiatives to change the lives of the people for better;
Their interest is production and productions and production. On a daily basis these poor mines has to reach a production target, if they exceed this they get a bonus and everyone work hard to get this bonus, no time to upskills himself/herself. Even if they have the opportunity to study, like any human being, they will opt for money so that they can survive.
If they could be given this performance bonuses to educate themselves, then the Marikana situation will not repeat itself and;
This is not gonna change anytime soon taking into consideration the comments that where made by both CEO’s of Anglo American and Sibanye Gold, clearly this is a war between government and the mines.
17th Aug 2015 at 6:35 am #29324
An important omission in Farlam.
I come from a smallish organisation where we did what we could to maintain best practice in HR. We always assumed that the ‘big boys’ got it right (all those extra resources, surely), but I have been confounded time and again by the failure of big business to get even the fundamentals of good HR right.
17th Aug 2015 at 7:10 am #29323
17th Aug 2015 at 7:42 am #29322
Sylvia, I have the same questions. Illiteracy or low levels of literacy IS a massive problem in our country. I must, however also state that the mining companies are putting in major efforts and training budgets to educate and train their staff members and this does form part of their transformation process. Training includes preparing them for supervisory and management positions, based on competency profiles, covering all aspects of leadership and management. Training is provided on all levels, considering lower literacy levels, and learning materials for lower levels are adapted to meet the need. In some cases, simple posters are used. I can speak for at least one of the mining companies that is getting blame and state that the company is training staff members on the labour processes, the role of unions, staff member participation in the process, etc. And even if there is a learner’s guide that they might not be able to read – if they claim they are illiterate – they have the benefit of a facilitator explaining the process, and of participating in learning activities. If they can organise a strike, surely they can co-opt some literate team members to help them follow the procedures? And in terms of financial literacy, my question is: Are they really illiterate or do they just refuse to take responsibility for their own finances? Anybody who has children and grandchildren at school will know that there is some form of personal financial education in schools. When my son was in high school quite a number of years ago, they had to work out a substantive budget, with motivations. It was part of the syllabus, not just a nice-to-have that the teacher initiated. The mines do not employ people who had never attended school.
17th Aug 2015 at 8:01 am #29321
17th Aug 2015 at 8:50 am #29320
I have read the comments below specially that of Dolce, and in many cases she is right.
We have a war going on between the Communists (Cosatu et al) & government (40% communist, specially Dti and Dept of Mining – see Glencoe last week) and the business community. Government is openly business unfriendly. The problem is however that the private industry pays their salaries and they know it, but hate it.
It is the government’s PRIME responsibility to provide education. It is not the business mission to do the governments work. In fact “training and skills development” is NOT part of any business; but only training WITHIN the context of the business activity, like specific methods and technology.
The “we are illiterate” slogan is nonsense. They were literate enough to get weapons, organize to march to kill & did kill people/police. They were on a war path with weapons and organization including sangomas. They got the war they were looking for, and some died. That is what you get in war. Cowboys should not cry when they die.
Back to Dolce. Let us stop the war between business and government/Cosatu. Close down all businesses and then start counting bodies.
Or do you have an alternative and by the way, drop the Apartheid theme. It is boring after 21 years and completely not relevant, unless the capacity to think creatively is not there.
17th Aug 2015 at 9:20 am #29319
If we really want to find the solutions to the bigger and very complex problems indicated by the discussion so far, I guess we will have force ourselves into much more ‘out-of-the box’ thinking than we can now anticipate. I have done extensive reading on the different language ‘literacies’ – and it is not just a simple description of being illiterate or literate. We consider marginal literacy, functional- and academic literacy to be different levels of proficiency required for specific job performance.
Having said this, I spent two days consulting with a mining company last week because they are genuinely and desperately committed to develop people so that the Marikanas can be avoided in future – and to provide hope and destiny far beyond! I was struck by the one challenge now being faced though – the new union is putting in all effort to derail the current foundation skills programme (ABET) BECAUSE it was introduced by the previous union…..
So, Dolce, please factor this into your view when you evaluate the the cause of the problems.
17th Aug 2015 at 9:26 am #29318
17th Aug 2015 at 9:44 am #29317
The mines have better training for stamping out illiteracy for their miners than many other companies have for their cleaning staff for instance. These courses inculcate everything, from mathematical literacy and language literacy and life skills which includes financial and budgeting training. We offer these courses at my company, but not all staff are eager to learn – either because they feel they are too old to learn now, or because it is an easy scape coat to be ignorant? However, I agree that unions may prefer members to be illiterate as they control people much easier to keep them that way. Very sad indeed, just shows how important skills development is in our country.
17th Aug 2015 at 9:49 am #29316
17th Aug 2015 at 9:59 am #29315
I have worked on mines around this country and in Namibia.
I have always found the focus on people development to be very strong and the mines seem to be committed to improving the lot of their workers.
Obviously not everything is perfect. But the apportioning of blame must include all roleplayers. That includes the Union, Management, Staff, Shareholders and the Government.
And just a small thought for you to carry away – it was the ANC which led with the slogan, “Freedom before Education.” Very good focus on the former – and not a great deal of thought on the consequences of the latter.
17th Aug 2015 at 10:14 am #29314
17th Aug 2015 at 10:22 am #29313
Thank you Zerelde I agree with your description of the complexity of the issue. That is my assessment of the situation and why I am seeking different perspectives on the events. The Farlam report was from a perspective of attributing legal responsibility.
However, I am suggesting that as well as the legal analysis, there is a much wider human resource management perspective, which is the only way to bring together the interplay of industrial relations and union relationships, implementation of skills development and issues of literacy, and the wider transformation issues including housing and the use of migrant labour and labour brokers.
What is becoming clear to me – and will be the content of my next article – is how the human resource management role is organised – and how that impacts on who deals with these issues.
17th Aug 2015 at 7:35 pm #29312
Thanks very much for comments more especially the ones that we directed to me,
The issues at hand seems to make most of you angry,
You even went to an extend of being the Mining Houses and giving reasons why you cannot empower black employees/people,
I urge you to go through the MQA Annual Reports, maybe this might be an eye opener to some of you, year in year out MQA fails to achieve its set targets not because it does not have money to fund those programmes but simply becauses Mining houses don’t want to claim this grants in order to empower its employees,
Those miners are indeed “illiterate”,
If it was not the case they would have not sacrificed their lives for a mere 22% salary increase,which in real monetary value is anything between R500 to R2500 taking into consideration that some of them still earn less than R3000 a month, to most of them R12500 was a life come true,
How ironic it is that the same poor miners who cannot make a mere R10 000 a month, gets told that the mine lost/looses approximately R30M a day when they don’t work,
After such a tragedy, I would also talk openly about my stupidity and how illiterate I am when I realize that I am worse off than I was before the strike and worst of all I am not even getting the R12500 that I was fighting for,
For those of you who are working with the mines to educate the miners, which of you have presented “Economics” to underground miners? I guess they excelled in the subject,
Mining sector do have lot of ills, and 20 years of ANC government without Economic Freedom cannot change the industry that has been running like these over 170 years, the will always do anything and everything to employ cheap labour, and use tactics not to empower black people,
I agree with those people that believe “Training and Education” is a solution and since it is not their core business, they should engage with the expects to help them.
17th Aug 2015 at 7:51 pm #29311
Thank you Dolce for taking the time to explain yourself and your experience. You comment about looking at the MQA reports is very interesting – that is something I may not be able to do right now but I have registered it.
Now I am absolutely sure that everyone who has commented so far is giving us their reality and it seems that there is far more to this mining industry than we get with the TV “soundbites”.
Maybe you or one of the other members could explain something to me. I understand that there is something called a Social Labour Policy – and also that the mining rights come with certain obligations – and that the minerals and energy department (I think) inspects their progress.
I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear about the state of housing and the hostels because I recall in the early 90s there was a commitment to remove all single sex hostels. Yes, that is before the end of apartheid! I worked for a multinational then and we had to report how many employees we still had in hostels and what we were doing about it. We were EE Code of Conduct signatories. So I ask myself what have these companies being doing for the last nearly 30 years? And what has the department doing the inspections been doing? And what has the union been doing?
I suspect that like anything else the companies range from the absolutely excellent to the “let’s see what we can get away with today”. So from all the people who work with the mining companies, please comment further on what Dolce and I have put forward.
Have you been involved in inspections or asked to produce documents? As I think that you are all private providers, I’m very interested to know – who do you work with in the company?
18th Aug 2015 at 7:51 am #29310
We do have a lot of common ground and that is a basis for continuing the debate.
I do have the following comments:
The SA mining industry is doing much more that equivalent industries in the world to alleviate poverty and provide some form of income to 100.000’s. For how long we do not know. It is however doing its fair share of training. It sits in a situation where prices determine income and shareholder must be satisfied. Without investors there is no mining industry anywhere in the world, in fact SA is not the desired place anymore to develop mines and we are training other countries including African countries. New gold mines are going up in Liberia, Ghana and Ethiopia showing the SA cost structure (Trade unions) and investment climate is unfavourable. In the only communist state in the world trade unions are but non-existent. This logic many be well known in many circles and completely unknown in other circles. The simple fact is that productivity pays your salary, not the mining management. If you are so productive that the costs is about the same as the Earned value of your production then there is no room for “a better life for all”. Kumba demonstrated it a few years ago when everybody received a huge bonus and “had a better life in December” that year. The willingness to share was demonstrated.
Productivity is a function of four factors only:
- Education and therefore having the appropriate skills for the technology applied.
- Cost of Labour
- Energy & Infrastucture availability and cost thereof.
- Technology applied based on the economics at the time.
Three of these factors are directly under the control of the state/ANC. The policies of the state determines if these factors are making a positive of negative contribution. If the technologies are too expensive, regulatory environment hazardous, and labour is not protecting their jobs then the mines will closedown. To stop the downward spiral of joblosses and consequential collapse of social structures, economy and eventually government, there is another paradigm required and not the same anti-business rhetoric of NUMSA, Joseph and the EFF. Any trade union that demands wage increases more than the inflation rate MUST demonstrated higher productivity. If that is not done, then the company will be driven into liquidation or it will change its technological basis to improve productivity. In either case, the workers that now earns a miserable salary will not have work at all. The choice is simple, reality is hard and nobody can escape it.
This morning we had another warning from the World Bank of what must be done to get things going in SA, and the finger points at the ANC and the trade unions to change.
The lessons form the Soviet Union is stark. If your policies do not actively create a positive investment climate you will collapse and the financial markets will drive you into the desert of poverty and no return, until you change. The mighty Soviet Union succumb; now when will SA succumb? I do not hear or see anything positive about the current situation in SA, in fact about every SOC is near the brink of collapse or need massive funding which does not exists anymore. An successful economy needs a high performing state. We do not have a high performing state.
18th Aug 2015 at 12:12 pm #29309
Hi Wessel, you’ve made your political point of view clear but not everyone agrees with you.
To get back to the point I was making – what is the level of literacy, numeracy and financial literacy of the miners?
As you seem to have knowledge of the mining industry, do you have information on what these levels are?
20th Aug 2015 at 8:53 am #29308
You have made a number of negative comments about the government and the ANC. I thought that you would be very interested to hear the comments made by Whitey Basson, the CEO of Shoprite Checkers. He is a man that is legendary in FMCG manufacturing and retailing and personally someone I regard highly for his expertise and also his common sense and humanitarian approach.
He was being interviewed by Lindsay Williams’ on his FMR financial programme. Lindsay asked him about government and Whitey’s response was that there are many more very good people in government than the media would have you believe. The issue is that this government is only 14 years old, and although there may be good people in parliament, the work needs to be done by thousands of people throughout the country. He said that he had suggested to government that they should get business people in to mentor and give advice on getting results.
21st Aug 2015 at 3:13 am #29307
When Conrad Strauss, former CEO of Standard Bank, suggested the same to Thabo Mbeki, Mbeki shunned meetings with organised business for two years because he took Strauss’ remark to imply that the ANC was incapable of running a country and that this remark was, by implication, racist.
This was probably the start of the ongoing feud which is still going on between government and business.
Message to Whitey- be careful what you say my china, certain people are very sensitive to this sort of offer.
21st Aug 2015 at 7:23 am #29306
Thanks for your response Charles. I do believe that much of the criticism we hear daily does stem from that belief and I can understand how that would have irritated Thabo Mbeki.
From my personal observations attending parliamentary meetings over a period of time and from the numerous documents I have read and people I have met, I don’t hold that view.
I do see significant competence in analysis, strategy and policy and development – and particularly with Minister Nzimande application of research-based evidence.
But implementation remains a problem and I understood that was what Whitey Basson was referring to.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.