Rustenburg - Some striking workers at Anglo Platinum’s
(Amplats) Rustenburg mines refused to return to work on Tuesday despite an offer by the company to
reinstate 12 000 men sacked for taking part in a six-week wildcat walkout.
Months of labour unrest in the mines have hit platinum and
gold output, threatened growth in Africa’s biggest economy and drawn criticism
of President Jacob Zuma for his handling of the most damaging strikes since the
end of apartheid in 1994.
However, the number of strikes has dropped in the last two
weeks amid management threats of mass dismissals and some payment sweetners.
At Amplats’ Thembelani mine near Rustenburg, 120km northwest
of Johannesburg, hundreds of miners barricaded a road to one of the shafts with
“No one is at work today unless they snuck in,” Mayford
Mjuza, a worker representative, told Reuters as a police helicopter hovered
Amplats, the world’s biggest producer of the precious metal,
said it was still gathering details on attendance at its four strike-hit
The company said last week it had reached a deal with
several unions and would be offering sweeteners such as a one-off hardship
payment of R2 000 to end a strike that has crippled production.
A return to work on Tuesday was one of the conditions
attached to the deal.
However, workers at Thembelani said they were determined to
stay away until Amplats matched a salary increase of up to 22% offered by rival
Lonmin [JSE:LON] after a violent wildcat walkout at its nearby Marikana platinum
mine in August.
The Lonmin offer came in the wake of the police killing of
34 miners on August 16, the bloodiest security incident since apartheid.
MacDonald Motsaathebe, who has been with Amplats for 12
years, said workers did not agree to the deal struck at the weekend between
Amplats and unions including the National Union of Mineworkers.
“We didn’t agree to the offer. We want R16 000. Lonmin
miners got it, and we want it,” said the 35-year-old, whose salary supports
nine people. “We earn peanuts.”
Workers are expected to meet later on Tuesday.
While the situation at Amplats has yet to be resolved,
tensions at other mining companies have eased.
Striking workers at gold firms including AngloGold Ashanti
[JSE:ANG] and Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] returned to work last week after threats of
mass dismissals and an offer of a small pay increase.