Mine unrest ends, job losses loom

2012-11-15 21:39

Johannesburg - Thousands of miners returned to work on Thursday at Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS], putting a lid on the most devastating and costly bout of labour unrest in South Africa in nearly a century.

The strikes started three months ago at the London-listed Lonmin mine in the Northwest platinum belt, before spreading to other mines and other sectors.

Unions estimate that in total over 140 000 workers downed tools across the country, most of them in the gold and platinum trade.

Deadly violence ensued, leaving more than 50 dead.

Estimates put the cost of the strikes at $1.2bn, roughly 1% of quarterly gross domestic product (GDP).

Over the months firms rolled out incentives and threats and more incentives. One mine by one, miners returned to work.

Amplats' more than 12 000 workers were the last major group of miners who refused to go to the underground, until the company enticed them with new monthly allowance and a one-off bonus this week.

But as the dust settles, mining firms are counting their losses.

Workers now face the prospect of job losses and the outlook on Africa's economic powerhouse is dim.

"This is the messiest, most violent, destructive and costly strike in the mining sector in maybe 90 years," Peter Major, mining analyst at Cadiz Corporate Solutions, said.

Miners are likely to hold on to their jobs for now, but some are likely to be laid off once companies work out their long-term plans, having factored in the impact of the strike.

At this state "nobody knows what it's going to cost in terms of time or money", said Major.

"Even the mining managers don't know how much they are going to rationalise. They probably need three or four months before they make an educated guess."

What is certain is that, in a country where one in every four people is unemployed, the ranks of the jobless will swell.

The scale for cuts is vast. The mining sector currently employs 500 000 people, and almost double that number if ancillary industries are included, making it one of the largest employers in South Africa.

"Without doubt there are going to be less people working on the mines in South Africa," Major said.

Trade union Solidarity says it is already in retrenchment negotiations at five mining companies.

Some layoffs had been on the books before the work stoppages of the past three months.

Mine operators were already buckling under low mineral prices and high production costs.

"Although not all strikes necessarily result in retrenchments, they definitely cause uncertainty in the industry," said Solidarity's spokesperson Johan Kruger.

At least 14 mining companies have been touched by strikes this year alone, according to Solidarity.

Investors have been spooked and the urge to spend may remain low for some time to come.

A new bout of strikes, this time in the farming sector, complicates any plans by President Jacob Zuma's administration to improve the country's image in the eyes of foreign investors.

The country is "probably going to be on an all-time low" in terms of foreign direct investment inflows, said Major.

The mines crisis has slowed South Africa's growth to 2.5% this year.

  • nicholas.graan - 2012-11-15 22:08

    Goodbye job! Even more South Africans will now be on welfare thanks to warring trade unions and politicians trying to show Big Business who's boss.

      arie.vdplaats.3 - 2012-11-16 05:54

      Wil graag aansluit - nie antwoord nie. Het onlangs `n baie relevante spotprent gesien. Swart vrou bewerk land met `n skoffel en vra haar mynwerkerman of hy toe die verhoging na R 12 500 gekry, waarop sy die antwoord gekry het "Ja, maar nou het die myn gesluit"

      nicholas.graan - 2012-11-16 12:18

      Presies die selfte gaan gebeur met die mynwerker wat nou vra vir R 16 500pm ..

  • asdhasgd - 2012-11-15 22:17

    Great. So now the whole country has to suffer. Thanks alot dingbats >:/

  • terrylee.heuer - 2012-11-15 22:18

    I knew this, but according to the President there is no instability in the country does he know something I don't know??!!

      phillip.vanniekerk.5 - 2012-11-15 22:58

      What President?

      terrylee.heuer - 2012-11-15 23:09

      Oops me bad I meant Zuma :)

      phillip.vanniekerk.5 - 2012-11-15 23:16

      Im afraid this Country is without a President and is a Lawless dump hole.

      phillip.vanniekerk.5 - 2012-11-15 23:18


      terrylee.heuer - 2012-11-15 23:21

      With you on that :)

      SarelJBotha - 2012-11-16 17:45

      He is not to worried about the trouble. Mostly he just thinks about enriching himself and his family even more.

  • hans.dewaal.5 - 2012-11-15 22:27

    AT least we will suffer and struggle together as one now!

  • james.stevens.391420 - 2012-11-15 22:57

    get paid for just clicking on ads free registration

  • thabo.manganye - 2012-11-15 23:25

    Why is it that most of those who are striking are the less educated who seem not to understand the impact it has to the economy and their job securities. People must think before they act, I think the govt must build more prisons now coz trade unions have created more criminals than academics. 12000 for so$eone who can't even write his name. Let's be reasonable people

      mikel.kiparski - 2012-11-16 00:49

      just because you cant write your name is beside the point. if you can produce the goods that is what matters.PICASO gets paid 4 his signature.

      DieSpytwurm - 2012-11-16 00:57

      Picaso can't mine. And Paintings sure as hell won't save the country from more debt. What a lame statement. Why don't you go look for a job that pays you for signatures that can save RSA?

      Happy Eric Sekgobela - 2012-11-16 06:59

      Thabo u speak like u r insane how can sum1 survive on 1grand a month is not the matter of being educated but survival

      msika.gama.5 - 2012-11-16 07:56

      Can Zuma write his name?? #Just asking

      thabo.manganye - 2012-11-16 11:07

      Happy , if we strive towards educating the nation they won't all this noise just imagine how many foreigners are employed in our local industry and reason being we not producing the qualified personnel to fill up those post. The best people can do is have kids so that they can get the social grant . We strike for services that we getting free from the government , what a shame. We day the locations are being over looked when it comes to service delivery. Yes we deserve that because the guys in the suburbs are paying their rates hence they get quality service wake up and smell the coffee for very soon we going to be a nation of beggars . A good example is across the Limpopo

      SarelJBotha - 2012-11-16 17:46

      Thabo, reason with most blacks have flown out the window, as can clearly be seen at the ballot box.

  • robert.doyle.712 - 2012-11-16 03:58


  • robert.doyle.712 - 2012-11-16 05:09

    OIL = THE NEXT GOLD..............A NATURAL HEDGE FOR THE US$.....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Montagnes.Bleues - 2012-11-16 05:22

    SOUTH AFRICA IS AT WAR! In many ways too and the relevance is only extremely pertinent to 'us' here at home in SA confirmed by browsing the NYTimes as an example. The only reference to Africa in the entire edition of NYT this morning is the following link: WHY at war? Democratic leanings were greatly supported and traditional leaders marginalised under Mandela and Mbeki & educated SA. Further down the years, the embittered devious uneducated Zuma took umbrage at his personal marginalization for using unscrupulous corrupt indians to latch onto his share of entitled wealth and gathered enormous support from the traditionl leaders and black royalty and the still uneducated or illiterate. Zuma has subsequently thwarted every attempt to prevent the demise of true Democracy and reared up DICTATORIAL traditional nepotistic rule resulting in the economic upset and violent clashes & avoiding 783+ crime charges & now refuses to hand over the tapes on which his freedom hinges DEFYING even every bastion of raped JUSTICE. Exacerbated by alienating a large formerly 'fostered' youth who are now anything but poor youth, enriched Zuma & his indian and far east clans seek total centralized control and have given a slap at "white ways & laws" and constitutional norms polarizing racial supremacy. SA will need a 27 year WAR as did Mozambique & Angola & until the traditional leaders prove themselves drunkard wastrels without merit.

      boltonbarry - 2012-11-16 08:10

      OH Wow I love this. Very well written. Now please rewerite it in such a way that some of the less educated news24 zoomer supporters can actually understand it

  • brionyl.french - 2012-11-16 07:00

    I say um well done to all the retarded people in the country for losing your job thanks to your greed and difficulty to behave like normal people and remain calm

  • Stephan van Wyk - 2012-11-16 07:36

    while violence is unacceptable it is a pity this all had to happen. why is the media hiding the truth. the mines employ their labour through agencies and were already paying the miners (agencies) R12000 before the strike; it was the agencies (owned by mine directors) that pocketed almost 45%.

  • errol.wagner - 2012-11-16 09:25

    We will have the highest paid workers - but with no jobs - what amazing logic.

  • msika.gama.5 - 2012-11-16 09:36

    Blame it on income inequality in SA, the rich (mostly white people) are earning huge salaries, while the poor are being paid penuts. If people were not so greedy for a huge pay check that could pay three people instead of the one greedy individual, life would be much better and the huge unemployment rate would be curbed.

      jason.davidson.144 - 2012-11-16 09:46

      I studied at university for 6 yrs and have 8yrs experience in my field - should I get the same salary as my friend who dropped out of school before matric?

      msika.gama.5 - 2012-11-16 11:29

      No you shouldn't, BUT you should get the same salary as any of your collegues with the same level of education, experience and expertise, irrespective of what colour their skin is.

      SarelJBotha - 2012-11-16 17:49

      Listen closely: People's incomes should only be measured against what they could earn elsewhere in the world, their value they add, the knowledge etc. If you had any common sense, you would realize that what you think should happen is plain damn crazy. It is not about black or white skin, nor should it be.

  • leaproach.thekeeper - 2012-11-16 10:45

    No sane person will continue to employ animals who burn, kill and destroy.... and if and when they can be replaced any a machine, it will happen sooner than later.

  • christina.setloboko - 2012-11-16 11:39

    i knew it will come to this, well no sympathy from me, they did it to themselves. welcome to the world of unemployment.

  • strikeback.strikeback - 2012-11-16 11:53

    No one will fight this situation better than those who create and maintain employment. If you want to save this country from economic ruin, you must ensure that those with the ability to make money and employ people, retain that ability. Once business owners and farmers loose control, lots of jobs will be lost as no one would take risks if the rewards are not enough. Unless any institution increases profitability, they can hardly increase on expenditure, including wages. How can it be better for all, if 50% loose employment due to retrenchments? Ensure that the workplace is rid of violence and illegal industrial action, by removing those who participate in such acts. Report them to Strikeback and see that they stay out of the system. (upgraded now for automation)

  • czwilliam - 2012-11-16 12:44

    yes and like all the bad patches we will recover from this...these guys risk their lives so they should be paid better money rather then the money going to these europeans.....nationalise or pay up...what do you think is better....

  • czwilliam - 2012-11-16 12:47

    easy to talk when you not the one risking your life and earningh these people or nationalise thats all...when will the cycle broken if he can only earn enough to put food on the table...

  • SarelJBotha - 2012-11-16 17:44

    More and more of these idiots will now be on social grants, thus the few taxpayers will get raped even more often.

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