Johannesburg - Gold producer Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] has given striking workers until Thursday to return to work or face immediate dismissal, chief executive Nick Holland said on Tuesday.Gold Fields said 23 500 workers in South Africa were still on a strike that has cost the company 65 000 ounces of lost gold production, or R1.2bn in revenue.
Meanwhile, up to 70% of the workforce at Gold Fields' Beatrix one, two and three shafts have started returning to work after a lengthy strike, company spokesperson Willie Jacobsz said on Tuesday.
"It was a spontaneous decision following extensive consultations over the past week or two or three," said Jacobsz.
Gold Fields announced in September that "unlawful" strike action at these operations in the Free State started at the West Section of Beatrix on September 21 and spread to the rest of the mine on Monday September 24.
On Monday this week, the Chamber of Mines said that an attempt between gold mining companies, Gold Fields, Anglo Gold Ashanti and Harmony Gold, and unions to address a minimum wage clause in the 2013 wage agreement got a mixed reception from workers. It was not possible to get a response from all workers so no further progress could be made.
The chamber said individual mines would then have to try and address these issues at mine level.
Gold Fields also has experienced disrupted operations at its KDC East and KDC West mines, where around 19 500 out of a total workforce of 26 700 were on strike.
Jacobsz would provide further information later after he had been briefed.
Uasa spokesperson Franz Stehring said that Gold Fields had sent unions letters asking for reasons why workers should not be dismissed and had asked for a written reply, which had been done.
Uasa told Gold Fields that it was impossible for category three through to category eight workers to get through to their posts due to intimidation, and asked the company not to dismiss them and not to issue the final ultimatum.
"We were in talks with them this morning and are looking at various ways to deal with the situation," said Stehring.
At Harmony Gold in the Free State, workers had given a good indication that they were willing to accept the offer that was placed on the table at the Chamber of Mines and there was hope this might be accepted.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is also asking whether it is possible for it to be signed off, said Stehring.
A strike at Harmony's Kusasalethu gold mine on the West Rand continued on Tuesday.
That mine is closed due to a strike involving most of the mine's 5400 workers.
"The unprotected strike at Kusasalethu continues, unfortunately, and we are still looking at ways and means of resolving it," said spokesperson Henrika Basterfield.
All their other operations were functional.
NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said it was hoped that miners at mine level would take a look at the situation and make a decision on whether they should go back to work.
NUM still believed a large part of the problem was unemployed people claiming to be miner representatives.
"The NUM is not facing any rejection. We continue to visit mines. Our members are scared.
"The leaders of the so-called strike action are themselves unemployed. It's for mineworkers themselves to see this thing. If they can't see that they are being misled, [and] that is their own issue."
Meanwhile, NUM would try and plead for the jobs of the around 1400 striking workers who were fired from Gold One, which announced on Tuesday that it would suspend operations for at least a month.