Carletonville - The Chamber of Mines might improve its pay offer to striking Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] employees if they returned to work, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Wednesday.
This option was only available to workers if they adhered to an ultimatum to return to work by Thursday, Vavi told strikers at the company's KDC west mine outside Carletonville.
"It is up to you [to go back to work]."
He advised them to discuss the matter and decide on a course of action.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions and National Union of Mineworkers would meet with the chamber on Thursday to attempt to improve an amended wage offer made to KDC west workers last week.
Vavi said charges against the six employees who were arrested for inciting violence had been dropped, much to the joy of the crowd.
After Wednesday's meeting KDC west workers were adamant they would not go back to work on Thursday.
"I am not going to work without equalisation," miner Victor Montshi said, referring to workers getting the equal pay for doing the same kinds of work.
Another echoed these sentiments.
"How much is an increase on that? That is the question," asked Clement Ntlantlapo.
The workers agreed to meet again on Thursday morning. The miners had been on strike for more than a month for a monthly wage of R12 500.
Other demands included equalisation, wanting their original pay slips, the keys to the local NUM office, and that no worker should be victimised when returning to work.
Last week, the workers were given a pamphlet notifying them of a final strike settlement.
The lowest-paid underground workers were offered a monthly salary of R8464. After deductions this amounted to a basic salary of R4840.
The highest-paid worker would receive a salary of R12 410. After deductions, such as a living-out allowance and medical aid, they would be left with a basic salary of R8041.
The lowest-paid surface workers were offered R7648 -- R4235 after deductions. The highest-paid surface workers were offered R11 440 which would come to R7311 after deductions.
This offer excluded additional bonuses, overtime, and other allowances.
Gold Fields on Tuesday issued a final ultimatum to all striking workers at the KDC West and Beatrix four shaft to present themselves for work by no later than 2pm Thursday, October 18, or face immediate dismissal.
Company spokesperson Willie Jacobsz said: "There has been a lot of informing and consultations taking place. We can expect them tomorrow (Thursday) at best."
The ultimatum did not apply to the 8500 KDC East workers who went on strike on Sunday, but the company had applied for an interdict declaring that strike unlawful.
On Wednesday, Gold Fields reported a full turnout of 6200 employees at the number one, two, and three shafts at its Beatrix mine in the Free State.
"This follows after striking workers, who have been on an unprotected strike since 24 September 2012, started returning to work yesterday (Tuesday)."
About 2800 employees at the Beatrix four shaft (formerly Oryx gold mine), 11 000 at KDC West, and 8500 at KDC East, remained on an unprotected strike.
Gold Fields had lost about R1.2bn in revenue and 65 000 ounces in gold production due to the strike. The company had saved R900m in wages over the same period, CEO Nick Holland said.
The company had been left with little option but to issue the ultimatums, given the escalating violence among strikers. This included intimidation, attempted murder, and damage to property.
Earlier on Wednesday a Gold Fields employee was assaulted. The man, apparently a former National Union of Mineworkers member, arrived on the soccer field where striking workers were having a meeting, Ntlantlapo said.
"The workers were very upset. It looked like he was making notes. People beat him up. It was bad. He was bleeding." He said other workers intervened and stopped the beating.
"We just pushed the security away, we don't want them involved. They are our enemies." Paramedics attended to the man outside the stadium.
"He is alright and has gone home. He was not hurt that bad," worker Victor Montshi said.
On Wednesday the mine handed out a pamphlet to workers at KDC West reminding them of the Thursday deadline to return to work.
"You are participating in unprotected strike action," it read.
"You and/or your representatives have failed to give reasons why a final ultimatum should not be issued and why you should not be dismissed for failing to report to work."
It stated that no further ultimatums would be given and workers dismissed if they failed to report to work. If employees went back to work and the mine was working normally by 2pm the company would implement the wage adjustments.
"The company reserves its right to take appropriate disciplinary action. Please note that you can also be held liable for any losses suffered as a consequence of this unlawful strike," the note read.