LEGISLATION providing for the merger of statutes that provide benefits for occupational diseases may be in force by March 2017.
Various government departments are working with mining houses to create a master database of former mineworkers who are owed billions of rand in unclaimed benefits, Mineral Resources Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant said on Friday.
She said it was still hoped that legislation to address a problematic compensation system for mineworkers would be in force by the end of the 2016-17 financial year.
Benefits for occupational lung diseases are among the provisions of this legislation.
The Department of Health has already developed a database covering the health records of to an estimated 700,000 mineworkers.
“To enrich the database we have started discussions with the Chamber of Mineworker to (include) 500,000 current mineworkers,” Oliphant said at a briefing in Pretoria on Friday.
“Currently there are R30bn in unclaimed benefits. A substantial portion is for mineworkers partly due to the legacy of the migrant system,” Oliphant said.
Former mineworkers or their families are still owed between R7bn and R10bn in unclaimed benefits across Southern African countries, with previous efforts to integrate compensation systems hampered by a lack of a reliable database, Oliphant said.
Since the end of apartheid, various attempts have been made to integrate compensation systems in SA, and work continues on a single system covering all benefits including provident and pension funds.
This forms part of a broader goal of a comprehensive system of social protection for employment, including the informal sector, by 2030.
A legislative framework is being developed to merge the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA) and the Compensation for Occupational Diseases and Injuries Act (COIDA) to meet mineworkers’ longstanding grievances about inferior benefits, and access to benefits.
ODMWA falls under the Department of Health, while COIDA is better known as the Compensation Fund and falls under the Department of Labour. ODMWA benefits for mineworkers have been seen as inferior, dating back to 1912, and levies under that act only cover income replacement and not administrative costs.
At the same time, the migrant nature of the mining sector has hampered attempts to reach mineworkers both in SA and in neighbouring countries, with Financial Services Board CEO Dube Tshidi saying that before 1996 employers held all the data for provident and pension funds, and much of the information was unreliable.
Even the families of mineworkers did not always know where their family member had worked, said Tshidi.
The departments of health, labour and mineral resources are undertaking roadshows and have formed a steering committee with several agencies to fast-track payments of benefits.
JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – A substantial sum – between R7-billion and R10-billion – of an estimated R30-billion in unclaimed benefits is believed to be due to South Africa’s former mineworkers.
The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is working to deliver single-compensation legislation by March and an integrated institution to manage financial benefits and compensation support matters after a years-long uphill battle.
“We now have a picture of the nature of the problem,” the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) director-general Tshediso Matona said at amedia briefing in Pretoria on Friday.
Updating the public on work that is being undertaken to mitigate social protection matters, Mineral ResourcesDeputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant said mineworkers, former mineworkers and their families faced an uphill battle in accessing their social protection benefits and, in many cases, were not even aware of the financial benefits due to them.
“The majority of [former] mineworkers are in rural villages and have little knowledge about their benefits. Where they have knowledge, it is virtually impossible to access their benefits owing to multiple barriers,” he said.
A pilot project, undertaken in the Eastern Cape during July as part of the Special Presidential Package for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities initiative, highlighted the need for improved integration between the various programmes, such as support programmes for duefinancial benefits and occupational health and diseases compensation.
The DPME and the Financial Services Board gathered the records, including old pay slips, Chamber of Mines (CoM) industry numbers, old 'dompas' identity numbers, provident and pension fund letters and old Teba mining company cards, of all the former mineworkers in the Eastern Cape to track and trace any potential benefits due, some of which dated back to the 1970s.
“We need to do more to improve the access of workers and [former] workers to their funds that they contributed to over their working lives,” said Matona.
Since 2013, about 14 000 former mineworkers had received compensation benefits amounting to R40-million and 8 000 had received Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits amounting to R14-million.
A May 2015 partnership, Operation Ku-Riha, between the departments of Health and Mineral Resources, trade unions and the CoM, aims to pay out some R1.5-billion in unclaimed compensation benefits to about 103 000 former mineworkers.
“While progress has been slow owing to setting up the tracking and tracing system, since February 2016, we have paid 1 443 claimants approximately R56-million and R3-million has gone to neighbouring countries,” Oliphant noted.
However, a lack of a database made tracking and tracing former mineworkers difficult, and as a result, an integrated and uniform workers’ compensation system is currently being developed with the support of the Department ofHealth (DoH) and the Department of Labour.
The DoH has subsequently developed a database of former mineworkers that covers both the demographic details and medical records of the former mineworkers.
“This database covers 700 000 claimant records and will assist all agencies across government to track and trace persons with unclaimed benefits. To enrich the database, we have started discussions with the CoM to cover the current workforce of 500 000 mineworkers,” he explained.
Meanwhile, mobile outreach activities are under way to deploy mobile one-stop facilities comprising claims management, a health clinic for medical assessments and amobile bank, funded by the World Bank, CoM and the GoldWorking Group, besides others.
“This new approach to piloting services closer to the [former] mineworkers has improved service delivery,” Oliphant said, adding that efforts were under way to add rehabilitation services for injured mineworkers to enable the provision of a fully integrated service covering occupational disease and injuries.
The one-stop service centres have been used by about 6 000 former mineworkers, with 4 000 referrals to the head office in Johannesburg since being opened in April 2014.
Further mobile outreach activities are planned for Bizana, Lusisiki, four other districts in the Eastern Cape, Welkom, in the Free State, and in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique andSwaziland over the next four months