Impala should have foreseen problems – union

2012-02-16 09:51

Impala Platinum should have foreseen there would be problems when it rehired around 17 000 fired workers, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said today after one person died in clashes there.

“They should have provided security. While they were rehiring, they should have foreseen the tension,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said.

Earlier, North West police said one person was killed and a policewoman and several civilians were injured in clashes at Impala Platinum’s Rustenburg operations last night.

“From reports, one person died last night in this situation,” Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said today.
The man was beaten up and stripped. He died in an ambulance, he said.

This morning, police were out in force, drawn from units around the province to control the situation, Ngubane said.

About 5 000 people, believed to be part of the group fired for going on an illegal strike, were “running up and down the streets outside the mine”. They had also set fire to the disused Freedom Park satellite police station.

“The situation is definitely volatile as we speak,” said Ngubane.

He urged the union and the mine to defuse the situation as it was taking police away from other areas.

Ngubane said no rubber bullets had been fired at the mine following a directive from the police ministry last year that this was no longer allowed in crowd control.

Ngubani said the workers appeared to be focusing on getting to shafts one, two and A2 to shut down the mine.

The injured policewoman, who was hit on the head, was treated for a minor injury. An unconfirmed number of people were taken to hospital last night for treatment.

The mineworkers were fired in January after a dispute and an illegal strike which started on January 12 over a retention bonus.

Earlier, it was reported that the bonus was paid to rock drillers, in an effort to reduce high staff turnover.
Seshoka however explained that it was paid to other miners, and not the around 5 000 rock drillers.

“The rock [drillers] went on an illegal strike protesting against them not receiving the bonus,” said Seshoka.

The company obtained an interdict for them to return to their vital rockface drilling work, but they ignored it, and so they were fired.

“We sent our team to try and persuade them to go back to work. They refused,” said Seshoka.

He said the company made the mistake of allowing the fired mineworkers to remain on the premises, and they prevented the others from working.

Because they were not working, they were also fired. The company then said it would start rehiring miners, making it clear it would not reinstate them as the strike had been illegal.

The difference was that they had to renegotiate their terms of employment and lose benefits such as higher pay for longer service.

They saw it as the company taking advantage of the situation to restructure.

In its half year results to December 2011, Implats said that from Tuesday it had lost production of 60 000 ounces (1 700kg) of platinum.

In its results statement, it said safety performance remained unsatisfactory, with all six mine accident deaths taking place at Rustenburg. This led to several closures and production losses.

It said its revenue was marginally higher for the latest period at R15.4 billion. The unit cost per platinum ounce was up 9.9%.

Platinum prices started the year at around US1700 (about R13 264), peaked at US1 900 (about R14 824), then ended the year at around US1400 (about R10 923).

In the meantime, the NUM wanted to meet the company to find ways of resolving the situation and it vowed to take strong action against NUM members responsible for violence.

Comment was not immediately available from a company spokesperson this morning.

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