11 October 2001
The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):
ANGLO AMERICAN CALLED RACIST AFTER AIDS DRUG "BETRAYAL"
MINING GIANT COULD FACE SOUTH AFRICAN STRIKE OVER POLICY SWITCH ON ANTI-RETROVIRALS
Mining giant Anglo American stands accused of reneging on a commitment to make anti-retroviral drugs available to all its South African workers.
Instead, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says, Anglo now plans to give preferential treatment to "senior employees" - apparently because the company thinks that providing anti-retrovirals throughout its workforce would be too expensive.
The NUM finds this policy "inherently racist and discriminatory, with beneficiaries of the scheme being, in the main, white workers and the black elite. The foot soldiers who generate wealth in the bowels of the earth are excluded."
Both the NUM and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have expressed "dismay" over Anglo's decision.
When Anglo originally announced that it would make anti-retrovirals available to all its workers, COSATU hailed the policy as a breakthrough. However, the NUM, which is a COSATU affiliate, saw the move by Anglo as a publicity gimmick.
"The decision to limit provision of anti-AIDS drugs has vindicated the NUMs position," say COSATU and the NUM in a joint statement. Anglo's aboutface is "a betrayal of the workers who produce the companys profits," the unions insist. "Anglo has once again demonstrated that the company cares more for profits than workers' life."
The NUM sees Anglo's policy reversal as a breach of the national agreement recently signed between the union and South Africa's mining employers.
COSATU and the NUM "call on the company to reverse its decision and provide anti AIDS drugs to all its workers. The NUM will engage the company in the coming days and will consider the necessary steps that may lead to a strike if the Anglo doesnot reverse the decision. COSATU will support the NUM in its attempts to reverse the decision."
At the global level, the NUM is affiliated to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).