Work Restructuring: Casualization and Sub-contracting of Work in the South African Mining Industry

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this research was to look at the changing nature of employment structures and the effects thereof on workers’ welfare within the South African mining sector.


Background and Methodology

Cheap migrant labour has been preferred for a long time in the South African mining sector. Of late, there has been an increase in casualization and sub-contracting of labour in the mining sector. Vulnerable workers are being taken advantage of by employers through the casualization of work.

The method used to collect data for this research was through a focus group (workshop). A total of 67 people formed part of the group, including NUM regional organisers and recruiters, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) representatives and SATRI staff.

Key Findings and Contribution

The findings from the workshop showed the challenges faced by NUM regional organisers and recruiters as a result of the rampant recruitment of casual workers. The challenges are as follows:

  • Workers are divided even though it is one workplace, i.e. permanent workers, contract workers, labour broker workers, and sub-contractors. This makes it difficult to organise.
  • There is non-compliance with law by employers, resulting in exploitation of casual workers. It was found that certain international companies do not comply with South African laws; they regard the laws as too rigid.
  • Casual workers are intimidated by their employers from joining unions. They are threatened with firing and are replaced instantly if they join unions or strikes.
  • It was pointed out that South African legislation is weak when it comes to the protection of casual workers.
  • There is political interference when it comes to the interest of mine workers, as politicians have shares in the mines.

The next step of this research is to develop a manual which will assist the NUM regional organisers and recruiters in overcoming the challenges they come across when they organise.

Project Duration

Phase 1 took place in 2017, and Phase 2 of the project is underway.