Amplats to reinstate 12 000 wildcat strikers – union

2012-10-27 07:16

The world’s biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), has agreed to rehire 12 000 wildcat strikers who were dismissed in South Africa, the main union has said.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it had struck a deal to get Amplats to take back all the workers it sacked three weeks ago, while workers’s pay demands would be addressed once the miners were back at their posts.

“We’ve reached an agreement with the employers to reinstate all the dismissed employees,” NUM regional coordinator Mxhasi Sithethi said. Workers are to report for work on Tuesday.

But at least one leader of the striking workers spurned the offer.

“It’s a proposal from management. We didn’t agree with that proposal,” George Tyobeka said. “We are not yet ready, because we have not reached an agreement between all the parties.”

“The offer that they put on the table is not acceptable to us. We cannot sell it to the workers,” said Tyobeka.

The company was not available for comment.

The announcement came as a strike in the gold mining sector also neared an end, with most workers reporting for duty yesterday following a pay agreement between unions and mine operators.

The deals, which could end a widespread work stoppage in the vital mining industry, came around a week after President Jacob Zuma made a plea to the tens of thousands of striking mine workers to return to their shafts.

NUM said it has been engaged in talks with Amplats, alongside other recognised unions at the mine.

The striking platinum workers will each receive a R2 000 ($230) one-off payment and an optional R2 500 salary advance to see them through, as they have been out of work for six weeks.

Workers who did not strike will be paid R2 000 rand for their loyalty.

Amplats dismissed the strikers en masse on October 5.

NUM said workers’ demands for pay hikes were not discussed in the latest round of talks. “The priority is to get all dismissed employees back at work, so the issue of whatever demands they have could be entertained later,” said Sithethi.

Workers have been pushing for pay raises of at least 11-22%, the same level awarded to those at Lonmin’s nearby Marikana mine following a strike that left 46 dead, including 35 who were killed by police.

The deal was reached as the London-based Anglo American chief executive Cynthia Carroll announced she would step down for personal reasons and after the firm slashed its forecast for annual platinum production owing to the strikes at its South African operations.

Earlier this week, Carroll urged South African authorities to restore order, as the violent mining strikes raged.
More than 100 000 mining workers in South Afica have embarked on industrial actions since August, costing the country more than $1.2 billion.

Thousands of gold miners resumed work yesterday however. AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony Gold reported large worker turnout, while Gold Fields was screening appeals for reinstatement by more than 7 000 strikers it had fired on Tuesday.

Joseph Mathunjwa, leader of a smaller Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), had earlier appealed for the “unconditional” reinstatement of sacked workers “to allow stability within the industry.”

In South Africa, the world’s top platinum and continent’s top gold producer, more than 500 000 people are employed in the mining sector.

Strikers were spurred on by wage hikes won by Lonmin platinum miners in September following the worst spasm of labour violence to hit South Africa since apartheid, which ended 18 years ago.

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