Mineworkers protest at NUM headquarters

By Drum Digital
06 May 2013

Dismissed Kumba Iron Ore workers arrived to picket at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) head office in Johannesburg on Monday.

"We are at the doors of the union, we are not fighting. We want national to assist us very urgently to get our jobs back," said Phenyo Ohentswe, spokesman for the group from Kuruman, in the Northern Cape.

"The branch and the region are dragging their feet on our case. We have lost properties and our children are no longer in school since we were dismissed in October last year."

He said 120 workers had been fired for not attending disciplinary hearings.

"The workers are innocent. The hearings were not communicated to us."

He said they had travelled more than 700km to plead with the national leaders of the NUM to talk to the company about reinstating them.

"We are not fighting. We want help from the national office."

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the union had intervened and that some workers had been reinstated.

"The union could only talk on labour matters. Some of them are still appearing in court. We cannot negotiate with the magistrate to release them," he said.

Seshoka said the workers seized mine machinery during an illegal strike last year, and refused to listen to the union's plea that they go back to work.

"This was a serious offence [seizing mine machinery]. We talked to them at that time they did not want to listen."

The workers went on a wildcat strike in October, demanding a monthly salary of R15,000 for all Kumba employees.

They seized heavy mining equipment including giant trucks and bulldozers.

The police recovered the equipment and arrested 40 workers.

Seshoka said some of the workers had moved their membership to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), but now that they were in trouble they wanted the NUM to intervene.

Their strike followed wildcat strikes in the platinum and gold sectors, where workers ditched their union representation and decided to elect a committee of workers to negotiate for them.

At Lonmin Mine in Marikana, outside Rustenburg, workers obtain huge increases in September, after a violent strike in which 44 people died, 34 of them at the hands of the police.

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