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Lonmin talks falter 'over venue'

Sep 11 2012 09:27 Sapa

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Johannesburg - A delegation of Lonmin workers used the venue as an excuse for failing to arrive for wage talks at the violence-hit platinum mine, a company official said on Tuesday.

Barnard Mokwena, executive vice president of human capital and external affairs at Lonmin platinum mine, said the choice of venue should not hold the crucial talks hostage.

"The venue cannot be used as an excuse at this stage at all. Nobody has a problem to change the venue," Mokwena told SAfm.

It was already agreed last Thursday that wage talks would happen on Monday, he said.

"So it really baffled us when we gathered, as we had all agreed... that the delegation of employees did not show up," said Mokwena.

"A bishop [speaking on behalf of the delegation] came later saying the workers were not aware of the meeting...

"All we got through the bishop is that the workers had no intention to come through, and also that they did not like the venue."

The meeting was to be facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. It was hoped that the company, unions and worker representatives would thrash out an agreement following a R12 500 salary demand from miners.

Labour unrest at the Rustenburg mine in the North West has left 44 people dead. About three weeks ago, police shot dead 34 protesting miners. In the preceding week 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed at the mine.

The violence was apparently sparked by rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), whose members were demanding monthly salaries of R12 500.

According to a peace accord signed last week, workers were to return to work on Monday to allow wage talks to continue.

But less than 7% of employees reported for work.

On Monday morning, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told SAfm the union would attend the CCMA-facilitated meeting which was scheduled to start at noon, and which in the end did not materialise.

"Why would the venue literally keep us hostage at such a difficult moment?," asked Mokwena.

"If they wanted a different venue, they had four days to say, 'look, we don't want the venue, change the venue to a different place'.

"They had four days to express that. Why did they have to wait four hours into the meeting to express that?"

CCMA officials would speak to Lonmin workers on Tuesday and explain to them what was happening.

"Today [Tuesday], we'll give it another go... we'll keep trying and trying and trying," said Mokwena.

"There is no way we can resolve this situation if parties do not come to the table."

He said no deadline had been set for the talks to be finalised.

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