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Unions lure gold firm CEOs back to table

Oct 03 2012 22:22
Zwelinzima Vavi

(Picture: Sapa)

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PETMIN LIMITED [JSE:PET]

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Last Updated: 02/09/2014 at 04:22. Prices are delayed by 15 minutes. Source: McGregor BFA

GOLD FIELDS LIMITED [JSE:GFI]

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Last Updated: 02/09/2014 at 04:23. Prices are delayed by 15 minutes. Source: McGregor BFA

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Johannesburg - Discussions on re-opening wage negotiations with striking mineworkers will begin on Thursday, said Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

He was addressing thousands of striking Gold Fields workers over a megaphone on a hill outside Carletonville on Wednesday night.

All CEOs of gold-producing mines would meet with the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at 13:00 to discuss the need to re-open wage negotiations, he said to cheers.

"All that is going to happen is not because of Vavi or [NUM president Senzeni Zokwana]. The power is in the workers," he said.

Also up for discussion at the meeting were services mines were required to provide, such as clinics and schools.

Vavi told the crowd that Cosatu and the NUM had met with Gold Fields' CEO Nick Holland earlier in the day.

The had agreed that the strikers should go back to the mine hostels and should continue their strike at a nearby soccer stadium, where they had gathered until now.

However, the crowd shouted that mine security would shoot them if they went back.

Vavi invited them to tell him if this happened.

He said there were conditions attached to the agreement, one of which was that the miners would not be allowed to take weapons into the stadium.

It was also agreed Gold Fields would switch on the water at the hostels and that the kitchens would work as normal.

Vavi reiterated his support for the workers and told them that if workers had to die while striking, he would die with them. "We will die together," he said.

"Employees should stay united," said Zokwana.

As the mineworkers made their way back to the hostels, some were pleased not to spend another night on the hill, and others were relieved that progress was being made in their wage negotiations.

"It's coming. The most important thing is that Gold Fields didn't want to come to the table, but at last they have convinced [Holland] to start discussions," said Senso Maphinda, 31.

"There is hope."

On Wednesday night, the NUM announced that wage negotiations in the gold and coal mining industries would reopen under an agreement reached in a meeting in Johannesburg between the Chamber of Mines, the NUM, Solidarity and UASA .

"The Chamber agreed to negotiate... [an] increase for entry level workers, [and] adjustment or upgrading for operators, which includes rockdrill operators...," spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Petmin said on Wednesday that striking workers at its Somkhele anthracite mine, near Mtubatuba, in KwaZulu-Natal, could be dismissed in terms of a court interdict.

"The workers, who are employed by Sandton Plant Hire (SPH), a contractor at the mine, have again been urged to return to work and to pursue their grievances through recognised negotiating channels," mine spokesperson Jonathon Rees said in a statement.

SPH had obtained a court interdict which declared the strike illegal and allowed SPH to take any legal steps necessary to resolve the situation.

"In terms of the interdict, disciplinary action against striking workers may include dismissal," Rees said.

The Witness reported on Wednesday that a security guard was hacked to death on Monday night, apparently by striking workers.

The strike at Somkhele started last week and the first violence was reported on Monday night.

The workers wanted a take-home salary of between R10 000 and R15 000 a month.

They currently earned between R4 000 and R6 000.

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