Mining companies threaten to dismiss strikers

2012-09-26 14:57

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Gold Fields are considering dismissing workers taking part in a wave of unprotected strikes.

Amplats in Rustenburg said that by tomorrow, if workers did not start coming back to work, there might be dismissals.

And Gold Fields, with two interdicts to fire workers if it wanted to, said it was also considering this option.

Amplats CEO Chris Griffith made it clear that the company would not talk about pay increases outside established procedures and timeframes, and that workers must go back to work tomorrow.

“If our employees do not heed this call, we will simply have no choice but to begin disciplinary action tomorrow against any employees who remain on strike, and that action could lead to dismissals.”

Gold Fields spokesperson Sven Lunsche said earlier: “Firing the striking workers is an option we are considering.”

This after the company obtained a second interdict for its Beatrix mine in the Free State.

Workers first went on strike at its KDC West on September 9, then at the West Section of Beatrix (formerly Oryx Mine) on Friday, and at the rest of the Beatrix mine by Monday.

Workers at Amplats went on a wildcat strike two weeks ago, demanding a monthly salary of almost R17 000. At Gold Fields, the call has been for R12 500.

An unprotected strike is when workers down tools without following agreed administrative measures or warnings to their employers that include “cooling off” periods, and which protect their jobs during a dispute.

In the latest strikes, many workers have rejected their National Union of Mineworkers representatives.

Yet another unprotected strike began this week at Anglo Gold Ashanti with the company saying about 35 000 workers at the West Wits and the balance of the Vaal River regions’ operations joined those at the company’s Kopanang operations in a work stoppage on September 20.

Meanwhile, more than 20 000 workers in freight transport logistics threatened that their protected strike for a 12% increase could spread after they rejected an offer of 8.5% for March 2013 then another 0.5% for September 2013.

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union spokesperson Vincent Masoga said the union intended to “ignite” other strikes in the maritime and freight rail industries, to ensure no goods were moved until their demands were met.

Three other unions – The Professional Transport and Allied Workers’ Union SA, the Transport and Allied Workers’ Union of South Africa and the Motor Transport Workers’ Union – were also negotiating.

The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said it was sad that this time of year had become known as “strike season” and urged that it rather become a period of communication and debate.

At least 46 people died in violence associated with an unprotected strike at Lonmin Platinum – 34 in a confrontation with police.

That strike was resolved last week.

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