Three mines at a standstill

2012-09-12 16:54

Johannesburg - Three of South Africa's biggest mines were at a standstill on Wednesday, with thousands of workers reiterating a growing call for a pay increase to R12 500.

A strike at Lonmin [JSE:LON] Platinum in Rustenburg went into its second month, with the company reporting an average 1.8% attendance at all its shafts on Wednesday.

Further afield, near Carletonville, security guards fired tear gas at strikers at Gold Fields' KDC west gold mine.

The company said they had been intimidating and threatening contractors, people at a training centre, and had rushed towards a train.

85% of the workforce there did not heed a call to return to work, in spite of an interdict by the Labour Court declaring their strike unprotected.

Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS], also in Rustenburg, said it had to "redirect" its staff from their premises for their own safety, and that large groups gathered nearby were not their workers, as claimed.

Workers angrily denied this with one saying: "If it were not for this industrial action, most of us would be deep inside shafts, sweating for Anglo Platinum. Do not be tricked by them," said protester Themba Ngaba.

In a statement, Lonmin said it was saddened after a body was discovered near the area where strikers gathered on Tuesday.

"We strongly condemn the on-going violence and again urge all parties to actively work towards restoring peace and stability within our operations," the company said.
This brings the death toll associated with the Lonmin strike to 45 since August 10.

Ten people, including police and security guards, died in the week before police fired on protesters, killing 34 on August 16.

The strikers have said they will go back to work only if their salaries are increased to R12 500.

Other issues have also been raised.

At Gold Fields [JSE:GFI], workers wanted the branch leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) removed, and pay equalisation.

At Amplats, workers complained about the quality of an energy drink provided for them.

The call for R12 500 has been supported by expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who visited the Gold Fields workers on Tuesday.

He also demanded the resignation of the Num's leaders, a call which was dismissed by the union, and a national mining strike for five days a month.

Meanwhile, a meeting between clergy, traditional leaders, and worker representatives was taking place parallel to efforts by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) to restart pay negotiations at Lonmin.

The Num was on site at Gold Fields to try and get workers to return to their posts, but workers there said the union was too late.

Num regional secretary Mbuyiseli Hibana said: "We want them to go back to work."

Nandi Nompozolo, a miner for five years, asked: "How can they talk about the crisis when they were not here? We are their people. Now this morning we must come and meet them at the stadium, so the people didn't want to go to them."

A leader of striking workers at Amplats said they were threatening to halt all mining operations around Rustenburg within a week if their employers did not accede to the R12 500 pay rise demand.

"We want to assure you that by Monday next week there will be no mining operation in Rustenburg," said strike leader Evans Ramokga.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa expressed concern over the amount of time it was taking to resolve the Lonmin situation, in spite of the support and resources directed at a resolution.

He suggested that Cyril Ramaphosa, a Lonmin director, "who has a wealth of experience in resolving labour disputes, to help resolve this long-drawn-out industrial dispute".

Ramaphosa, who is now a businessman, was instrumental in the early organisation of the Num.

Recruitment company Manpower SA expressed concern at the economic impact of the disruptions.

Regardless of the price of platinum surging in light of the issues, the strike meant mines were not meeting their contractual obligations or paying debtors.

"Not only will this lead to further job losses as well as investor uncertainty in South African mines, but it will no doubt lead to changes in mine processes that could lead to less dependence on high workforce numbers in an attempt to curb the crippling effects strikes have on their operations," said managing director Lyndy van den Barselaar.

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  • osmaseko - 2012-09-12 17:24

    heh heh heh so it looks like the economic freedom fighters are about to get what they want

      Michael - 2012-09-12 17:26

      If what they want is to lose their jobs, then you are correct

      Rabbler.Rouser - 2012-09-12 17:28

      They will certainly end up unemployed and starving.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 17:30

      You're right Osmaseko, by the time they're finished they'll have all the economic freedom in South Africa - non-functional mines, no investors, murderers running free, and so much more. Enjoy the fruits of your wasteland, just don't expect the rest of the world to come drop food supplies when everyone is starving. Perhaps your new economically free government can pass legislature on cannibalism as a solution. Clap. Clap. Clap.

      chaplinncharlie - 2012-09-12 17:38

      Haiti in the making...

      Tony Lapson - 2012-09-12 17:42

      Indeed, because there will be no ramifications at all.... Right? So what is the plan when you get this "economic freedom"? 16hr unpaid home work trying to Sustain yourself and your family?

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-09-12 17:45

      Osmaseko, there are none as blind as those who do not want to see. Economic freedom in this instance will mean freedom to go back to the rural areas, building huts from clay, form a Lesaka where everybody is welcome, making campfires at night to feed all.......and off you go......economic freedom. Viva freedom, viva hunger bellies.......VIVA

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 17:45

      What I'd like to know, or ask all the okes who think that nationalising the mines and "taking back what is theirs" etc is this: Once you "have it" a) Who exactly is going to "have this" and b) Do you honestly think that if someone like Malema owned the mine he would pay you what you want c) Who decides who get's what when you "have it".

      EricksonTL - 2012-09-12 17:50

      Indeed. They will be free. Free of jobs. Still, the opportunity to find whatever new jobs they qualify for DOES make them economically free. All good then, carry on.

      gieljam.gomtor - 2012-09-12 17:52

      I had some sympathy for the miners but realizing what they actually are doing to the country I hope the mine employer negotiators wont give in to these un-thankful thugs .

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-09-12 17:53

      Hugh - no buddy, you are thinking way to far ahead. This is like a dog chasing a bus - once it has caught the bus, it has no clue what to do with it. And you also no you will get NO response to your question. The only black countrymen who have the capacity to respond, simply do not think the way the masses do - so they will not need to respond

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 18:59

      controversy - to answer you (since you have not answered me) - I could care less about the mines, there is nobody in my family, no friends or anyone I know who's life depends on the mines. It is not about the mines, it is about the mind - the mindset. That is what worries me, and many others.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 20:43

      Agh Keeper I hope you're not right man.

  • kobus.hattingh.5 - 2012-09-12 17:25

    Wonder with what salary they are going to live on a month or two later when they get NO salary at all! Fire them all and industrialize the industry even more.

      heathway.master - 2012-09-13 09:44

      This is really good news. Probably 15 billion rand a month lost. What the Satellite businesses servicing all the mines must be losing as well is an unknown. Gaurantee if miners do not get a full production bonus and thirteenth check at Christmas time, it will be back to more violent strikes.

  • werner.nel.712 - 2012-09-12 17:31

    Ramaphosa the boer?

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-09-12 17:47

      Yip, all the owners are white - they have everything. Nothing belongs to the black people. Yes, Ramaphosa the white boer.

  • hermann.hanekom - 2012-09-12 17:36

    Close the mines and fire the lot of greedy swine - they will come back begging for a job when wify and kiddies have no food and Gift of the Givers can no longer feed them.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 17:40

      Can't just fire them sadly - one of my clients fired 80 or so for an illegal strike at their factory, they took the company to court and won. Instead of paying around 2 million (about 3 years of court battle later) they are going to liquidate - means 200 wage earners and about 40 admin and executive staff without jobs.

  • dick.etheridge - 2012-09-12 17:38

    There are plenty of workers back in the Eastern Cape who are chopping at the bit to fill the soon to be vacancies. Blackmail has never been a sound strategy!

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 20:53

      It doesn't solve the fact that there are mouths to feed. SA is fast becoming a feeding scheme and those in the position to feed are becoming scarce as long as government carries on the way it is.

  • pat.magwaza - 2012-09-12 17:39

    Holomisa did you just woke up now? Ramaphosa is a rat, the biggest enemy of the do you expect a shareholder of Lonmin to persuade miners he's underpaying to go back to work...animals are more important to him than the miners making billions for him...God help the miners and afraid time for begging whites will come to an end after Mangaung...we will take whats rightfully ours..

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 17:42

      Why is it "yours"? Did you own it originally?

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-09-12 17:55

      LOL - Hugh, you are in a positive frame of mind today:-) questions?............dead silence........

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 19:15

      LOL Christelle - seriously trying to hold on to a positive frame of mind ;-) difficult though! Senseofhumour failure is eminent!

  • KeeperofChaos - 2012-09-12 17:41

    No, the mines will just have to stand firm. If they give them the increase then that opens up the way for the entire mining sector to go on strike and demand the same increase. Sorry it's not going to happen, the economy cannot carry it. Zuma is not saying anything cause he is between a rock and a hard place : Support the workers and it hurts the economy or support the mines and lose more votes. It's a tough one for showerhead.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 17:49

      Good point - never thought of it like that.

      KeeperofChaos - 2012-09-12 20:19

      Thanks Hugh. Playing silent is the best thing he can do logically. Actually, he is at a loss no matter which way he goes. The mines must bite the bullet :) and hold out as long as possible, until the workers want to negotiate as smaller increase. What they want is an inflation increase, that is what will happen. Our labour cost is far higher than India or China. I'm not saying we should go that low but if you want to be competitive and keep our market share then we need to make sacrifices. Higher inflation of course is bad for everyone. We have already lost jobs to those countries, labour is simply exported to where it is the cheapest (This is the big picture). What I dread most is for the unrest to spread to coal mines. If they down tools there. God help us!

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 20:48

      Well I guess it's a conundrum. You've made an excellent point and I'm surprised nobody else has commented on it - that actually scares me!

      KeeperofChaos - 2012-09-12 21:40

      Yip, this is a tough one to get out of. It's now all about putting a limit on the damage caused. Readers are welcome to comment on my posts, either in support or as a challenge, it brings about further thought and understanding of the situations we face.

  • Michael - 2012-09-12 17:41

    This is an open comment to ANC SG, I am a concerned youth, anc member, ANCYL is quite when ANC leadership is under attack, are we allowed to mobilise all open minded youth in the ANC to play the role that the ANCYL should play, there are manny of us who are concerned, how long must we wait and see this happening? This social network and manny others can be used for that purpose, these people can be defeated, its time for all ANC members to stand up now! Thsi can not be allowed to happen unchallenged:

      gieljam.gomtor - 2012-09-12 18:03

      Michael somehow you have a poit and surely stand up if you dont agree with the ANCYL leadership ( of course this can and will be very dangerous)they have been hi-jacked into a frenzy partly due to misleading and not achievable promises by the ANC of an utopia where everything will be given to the voters on a platter for voting them in now not getting this they only demand this and have never really shown any maturity or sane leadership ability.

  • annelene.munro - 2012-09-12 18:03

    Won't somebody please tell the striking workers that they are slowly killing the goose who lays their monthly eggs?? Won't somebody point out to them how the price of gold and platinum has dropped? Won't somebody please explain to people that if the mines are nationalised - its ownership will vest in the Government ... the profits will not land in the pockets of the PEOPLE, but in the hands of the GOVERNMENT ... and we all know what happens to that money!!

      anthony.richardson.961 - 2012-09-12 23:01

      Annelene, where do you get your info from? These strikes are pushing the platinum price higher as a result of of a potential shortage coupled with weakening the Rand. The mining houses are paid partly in USD so high price x weak Rand means increased revenue. The mining houses are selling stockpiled platinum, catch a wake up!!

  • annelene.munro - 2012-09-12 18:19

    I have to correct myself re earlier comment -- I should have said, IF the Government makes a profit, because as far as I know nationalising has never been a success anywhere .....

      arthur.hugh - 2012-09-12 19:26

      Nationalising the banks has been a success in Iceland, but other than that, no, you are correct sir / ma'm.

  • annelene.munro - 2012-09-12 19:40

    I dont think the general public realise the dangers ahead: If mines cannot be productive = no exports No exports = no cash inflow No cash inflow = no money for wages or purchases No exports = balance of payment problems = rand weakening rand weakens = petrol price hike = higher prices for transport and goods No purchases from companies relient on mines buying from them = job losses in this sector No income for mines = share prices falling, lower or no dividends Lower or no dividends = pension funds/unit trusts/RA's cannot pay out what you were quoted originally - so it touches everybody whether young or old No income from mines = less or no tax due to the State - no increases for government employees?? No income for miners = less purchases from shops - so less VAT for State and smaller shops folding so more job losses - The list is never-ending - we are in for a torrid time ...

  • gillian.sparkes.7 - 2012-09-13 09:49

    It amazes me that every time something goes wrong in this country, the apartheid is white people are now getting what they deserve, and how they are still oppressing black people. The shocker here is that Apartheid was for ALL coloured people, Black, Indian and Coloured people. It’s amazing though that the Indian people actually made something of themselves during apartheid, and are now some of the best business men and educators in the country. If you have forgotten, Apartheid ended in the 90's...10 years ago. You have no one to blame but yourselves, for the fact that there is no consequential thinking in your mind, you are unable to see past "TODAY" Nationalise the mines, and get your greedy government to pay you the wages you so desperately want, and when they realize how profitable mining is in this country, maybe they will be the ones on the other end of this wage fight. Get with the program, the only reason this country's government wants to nationalize anything is to reap the money, and leave a failed service Eskom and Telkom and all the other companies that are owned by the government. Mechanize all of the mines in the country and let the rural tribes fight it out between themselves. What you forget is that these mines offer Basic Education to all of their workers; they offer housing and food daily... Bunch of uninformed misfits….

      norman.depluhm - 2012-09-13 16:23

      Totally agree with you, it's a mentality thing, not a race thing. The indian population are doing it right, growing their way up the 'ladder' we all have to climb by a rigorous diet of education and hard work. Well the ethically minded ones are anyway, some are pulling Thoshan Pillay, Shabir Shaik and Vivian Reddy manoeuvres... Bit I digress because even that should not be looked at in colour, it should be a case of one either being an honest individual with morals, or a frikken criminal sicko business-bastard.. Another aspect of apartheid that the ANC keeps forgetting while being all proud of how they 'liberated' their people, is that is was actually a referendum that done gone dunnit. 80% off of the white population 'freed' the non whites. I've always wishes we could have another referendum or two, not voting for parties, voting for policies. Results would be interesting :) Funny how there has not been another referendum since that fateful day...

  • Charles8606 - 2012-09-13 10:14

    I think we should all congratulate the mine workers for their steadfastness in not working.

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