Mining unrest spreads

2012-09-10 20:01

Marikana - Labour unrest spread in South Africa on Monday with a wildcat strike by more than 10 000 workers halting operations at a gold mine while few workers reported for duty in the fourth week of a violent stoppage over poor pay at the world's third largest platinum mine.

Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] said its strike started on Sunday night and that senior managers met on Monday with strikers at the west section of its KDC mine demanding the removal of National Union of Mineworkers' shop stewards and a minimum monthly wage of R12 500.

About 12 000 miners at east KDC staged a weeklong illegal strike to demand the removal of shop stewards that ended September 3.

At a second platinum mine, Implats, 15 000-plus workers are demanding a 10% pay rise although they are continuing to work, spokesperson Johan Theron said.

Lonmin [JSE:LON] platinum mine said just 6% of its 28 000 workers turned up on Monday morning at its mine in Marikana.

Mine drivers drove around looking for workers to pick up, but the buses returned to the mine empty.

In Marikana, hundreds of chanting strikers descended on one after another of the Lonmin mine shafts on Monday, carrying traditional spears and sticks.

They marched for about 10km outside the gated shafts, under the close eye of armed police in riot gear, some in armoured cars, others on foot.

As strikers approached, police and mine security escorted some of the working miners away and explosives were removed from the scene.

Protesters chased one miner, but he managed to run away and police picked him up.

Strikers have threatened to kill any miners or managers who do not respect their demand for all work to stop until Lonmin agrees to a monthly take-home pay of R12 500 rand, about double their current wages.

Lonmin had hoped many more miners would come to work since a peace accord was signed last week with three major unions. But it was rejected by a breakaway union and non-union strikers.

The government brokered the peace deal after police shot and killed 34 miners and wounded 78 on August 16 at Marikana.

Ten people were killed in the week before the shootings: two police officers hacked to death by strikers, six union shop stewards and two mine guards burned alive in their car.

The Legal Resources Centre, meanwhile, announced that it has hired forensic experts and pathologists to investigate the Marikana violence on behalf of the South African Human Rights Commission.

The commission has stepped in following local news reports alleging that some miners were shot as they tried to surrender to police; others were shot in the back as they ran away from the police fire; and that some were run over and killed by police armoured cars.

Police and government officials have refused to comment on the allegations, saying they must await the results of a judicial commission of inquiry that is to report to President Jacob Zuma in January.

Miners told The Associated Press they are getting desperate and do not have enough money to feed their families because of the no-work, no-pay strike.

One said a loan shark is refusing to give money to any but long-time customers. Still they said they remain resolute and will not return to work until their wage demand is met. The miners refused to give their names to a reporter.

The National Union of Mineworkers said the Marikana strikers had gone around on Sunday night threatening anyone who went to work.

Negotiations between mine managers, several unions and representatives of strikers who do not want to be represented by any of the unions were postponed for 24 hours because the strikers' representatives said they did not know about the meeting, said Lonmin spokesperson Sue Vey.

She said the talks would start off by working out a framework for salary negotiations and probably would last several days.

But Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of Solidarity, said the strikers' representatives sent a message saying their position had not changed and they would not go back to work until Lonmin agrees to the salary demand.

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  • tatsee - 2012-09-10 20:09

    For all advantages that the economy of SA offers,for any sort of investor,labour has too much power and is too restless.It seems there is no solution to this situation,its now a situation of weighing up the costs vs benefits but the costs are creeping up too fast and becoming too scary to investors.

      farmfreund - 2012-09-10 20:19

      tatsee- Agree, the problem is this is part of the plan, i think there are bigger people behind this, if the mines close down the chinees buys them at no cost, i think we are missing the bigger picture here, of what is happening to our recourses,

      lacrimose.wolf - 2012-09-10 20:36

      Totally agree. But see how easy it is to manipulate sentiment - the world over - with (unsubstantiated) allegations of R4000 pm vs R12 500 pm. Denials and proof to the contrary are now meaningless. This is a textbook case of "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war". I'm more concerned as to who will rein the pack in, when and how.

      glen.e.huysamer - 2012-09-10 23:23

      It is really time that all South Africans become serious about our natural mineral resources, that which is left, there is really no time for South Africans to squabble over this. Pay these miners, their asking fee lets get back to work, and continue to work out the profit share.

      tatsee - 2012-09-11 10:28

      @Glen-here is a short economics lesson.If the mining companies raise the wages for these relatively unskilled miners to the asking R12 500 their senior supervisors will obviously want to earn more than their juniors-this domino will keep dropping till it hits the shareholders profits and the next thing shareholders in the immediate short term want to do is to raise the price of their mineral selling prices which they cant as these mineral prices are determined on the international markets hence hands are tied there.If shareholders cant raise prices immediately,only route left is to shut down and cut losses.If mining cos shut down,and considering the fact that SA economy is minerals backed,financial markets will tailspin down dragging the rest of the economy with it and a major recession will drop on SA all because we agreed to award Marikana miners their requested R12 500 which eventually they wont get as Lonmin would have shut down!

  • nads.delange - 2012-09-10 20:45

    Did these people not learn? Honestly! It's an illegal strike, and they are threatening people's lives if they don't partake, throw their asses in jail!!!

      lacrimose.wolf - 2012-09-10 21:39

      That's just what they want to spark a domino revolt around all mining and affiliated sectors across the country

      heathway.master - 2012-09-11 09:49

      In my humble opinion, the 2 biggest threats to the economic and social stability in this country at present, are the ANCYL and the various Labour Unions. I made similar comments to a previous article, and it so enraged certain readers that the editor was requested to delete them. Rather surprising as I made no racial comment and was not abusive. News 24 does not believe in freedom of speech. Anyhow, I feel labour unions are only interested in the power they can yield, and the obscene dues they receive from members. They continually stir up strikes over wages, just too keep members assured of the benefits of belonging to a union. With the ANCYL, they only want fame and popular support from the masses. Their suggestions are deadly. They want to target only profitable companies for nationalization and black control. Sasol is the largest contributor of taxes and investment in SA. Nationalist Government made a mess of running Iscor and its associated mines. Arcmittal and Anglo American’s Kumba operation turned this around to both become highly profitable companies. These economic pearls are now to be destroyed by ANCYL ambitions. Need I say more.

  • douglas.reid.921 - 2012-09-10 20:56

    Nationalize the mines then sell them to the chinese, sounds like a good plan. Chinese workers come real cheap. Current miners get to be too sorry too late.\r\nThe price of ignorance

  • heathway.master - 2012-09-10 21:06

    Financial articles written before the wage riots started, indicated that Lonmin was running at an economic loss due to the 2008 recession which resulted in a drop in platinum prices, and a drastic reduction in platinum demand. This information will however be totally lost on the illiterate, uneducated, and financially ignorant masses, who only concentrate on their short term gains.

  • heathway.master - 2012-09-10 21:10

    In a financial news publication they stated that the mines issued information that the miners were on a gross salary of R10 000 / month. This figure could be appreciably increased if production targets were met. Further they were given a R 1800 / month allowance if they chose not to use mine accommodation with free food. Cosatu I believe has vehemently steered away from any mine conditions that salary will depend on production targets, or that a share scheme be set up were payment depends on final annual profit figures. I.e. The only thing Cosatu and the miners want is a free lunch, with no conditions attached. Julius has further issued the statement that his ambition is to make the mines ungovernable. A recent News Fin 24 article stated that SA now has the worst and most acrimonious worker - employee relationship in the world. Our labour laws are also becoming the most punitive in the world with new restrictive labour laws continuously being introduced. A company can be fined 10% of annual turnover, if labour laws are transgressed. The biggest mining company in the world, BHP Billiton, now only has a token mining presence in SA. Much the same policy is being followed by other major mining companies. Once the unemployment figures soar, the country will be in for continuous rioting, destruction and anarchy, which will be then be blamed on Apartheid. The despised West will then be asked to come to the rescue with humanitarian aid.

  • ike.jakson - 2012-09-10 23:13

    These Strikers may one day learn about the wise old saying: "Sow the whirlwind and wreak the Storm” but by then it will be too late for them.

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