Uproar over unionist’s huge salary hike just ‘a campaign’

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni has come under fire for a whopping R40 000 increase in his salary, taking it to R77 000 a month, while ordinary mineworkers are struggling to make ends meet.

If you add travel expenses, a housing subsidy and pension, Baleni earns more than R1.4-million a year,  more than double that of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. The increase, which is likely to raise eyebrows at the union’s national congress at Ghallager Estate next week,  makes Baleni one of the highest-paid unionists in the country.

Cosatu and unions affiliated to it have consistently criticised the excessive executive packages paid by President Jacob Zuma’s admin­istration despite the high poverty levels in the country.

In an interview this week, Baleni defended the decision to increase his salary, saying it was market-related. “Periodically, the union does a market survey to look at salaries for everybody to check if they are in line with what is in the market and adjust accordingly,” he said.

He said he was not responsible for the increase. “Salaries are determined by our human resources department. We recused ourselves in the national executive committee meeting when the issue of salaries was raised,” said Baleni.

He questioned the timing of the leaking of his earnings.

“This is a campaign. People tried every aspect in terms of our performance, but they failed. That’s why they are coming with this now. Members of the NUM are not foolish. They will see through fiction and facts.” Baleni said his salary was not much different to that of his deputy, Oupa Komane, who is challenging him for the position of general secretary. “The different between our salaries is about R1000. He [Komane] gets almost the same salary as me.”

Komane said on Thursday that he, in fact, earned R2 000 less than Baleni did.

NUM leaders close to Komane are planning to attack Baleni at the congress for failing to adhere to union procurement procedures when he awarded multimillion-rand contracts for the internal and external renovation of the NUM headquarters in Johannesburg.
Komane’s supporters are demanding an investigation based on a report by auditing firm SizweNtsaluba & Gobodo, which found the union was owed R6667850 less than the balance indicated in its financial statements. This resulted in the union receiving a qualified audit.

Baleni’s opponents claim that the union was likely to get another qualified audit next year because Baleni had again awarded a tender for external renovations without proper procedures. The money for the renovations, which is estimated to have cost R5.7-million, was donated by one of the NUM’s investment arms, the Mining Investment Corporation, which is chaired by Baleni.

According to Baleni’s opponents, the money was supposed to have been transferred by the NUM to NUM Property, a subsidiary owned by the Mineworkers’ Trust.

But the NUM, under Baleni’s leadership, decided to pay contractors directly instead of transferring the money to NUM Property, which owns all the buildings of the NUM and is responsible for renovations as well as the selling and acquiring of new property.

Baleni said the reason the money was not paid to NUM Property was because the Mining Investment Corporation had recommended that a particular company should do the renovations.

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