/ 28 February 2008

DA criticises Erwin’s job-loss comments

Minister of Public Enterprises Alec Erwin should refrain from making unsubstantiated comments on the job-loss threats faced by thousands of mineworkers, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Thursday.

”Statements from the minister, which imply that the mining industry is using electricity rationing as an excuse to downsize its workforce, have muddied the debate,” said spokesperson Manie van Dyk.

”Given that he has already lost a great deal of credibility following his insinuations in 2006 about sabotage, and his more recent statements negating the dire effect of the crisis on the economy, Erwin should stay away from unsubstantiated comments and rather help to find solutions,” Van Dyk said.

On Wednesday Erwin said that it was unclear whether proposed job cuts in the mining industry were caused by power cuts and electricity rationing, as Gold Fields has suggested, or other factors.

”I’ve been a trade unionist for many years and you often use an event like this to explain something you’re going to do anyway,” he told Parliament’s public enterprises committee.

Erwin said the minister of minerals and energy would meet with the mines on Thursday to discuss the matter.

The DA said Erwin should take the threat to the job security of thousands of workers seriously, and acknowledge the detrimental effects of electricity rationing on the mining industry and the greater economy.

”… Erwin should consider retracting his comment in January that ”we should be able to maintain the current healthy growth of the economy”.

”In addition, the government must consider all avenues available to it to assist mines in recouping some of the losses arising from the electricity shortage in order to avoid retrenchments,” Van Dyk said. — Sapa