Assmang incident cost counted

After an Assmang incident, a R15-m trust fund assists the families of the seven workers who were killed in two furnace explosions in 2007 and in 2008.

But the legal and labour representatives of the employees are not happy because the company allegedly concluded the deal unilaterally.

According to the family members, the company will pay each family or dependants of the deceased the monthly salary which the worker was earning at death and this will continue until the year that they would have retired.

The salaries will take inflation into account. For most of the families, the deceased were the breadwinners.

Richard Spoor, the lawyer representing workers, yesterday said it was difficult to assess if the deal concluded with the families was good because they were completely excluded. “You can’t assess it unless you have an expert look at it. There is this hostility on the part of management and they don’t want to deal with us,” he said.

Puleng Mminele, an occupational health and safety co-ordinator at the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, also complained about the company’s unilateral decision.

Mminele said the union would be satisfied once the company has been prosecuted and family members received more compensation.

Attempts to get comment from Assmang yesterday were unsuccessful.

The Pay-outs

The company has paid the families lump sums and the monthly amounts received by the families vary according to the salaries of the deceased.

Alice Maduna lost her husband, Zibuse, who had worked at the Cato Ridge plant for a total of 15 years.

The couple has four children, two of whom are still minors. Maduna said the money from the company was not enough and life was difficult.

“In 2008, they helped me by paying the university tuition for one of the children but they did not help me last year. I tried with the little money and fortunately it was his final year,” said Maduna.

Nomusa Ngcobo lost her sibling, Nhlanhla, who had been employed for just a year. Ngcobo had seven dependants, including a three-year-old child.

“He was the breadwinner at home. We receive just over R2 000 from the fund, which is divided between my mother and the child’s mother. The company has not apologised for what happened,” she said.

Continuing Investigations and Hearings

Yesterday, the second day of the sixth hearing into the circumstances surrounding the incident that killed six people, was held at Cato Ridge.

On the stand was Willie Pretorius, a former foreman at Assmang who was on the day shift on the day before the incident. Spoor said it was clear from Pretorius’s testimony that there was no formal written procedure to identify water leaks and how they should be addressed.

Assmang has argued that Bheki Ndlovu, the foreman on duty on the day of the incident who had died in the explosion, should have switched off the furnace. But Spoor said it was easy to blame Ndlovu because he was no longer around to defend himself.

Souce: Business Report

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.