Thousands of miners wait for Vavi

2012-09-20 15:31

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Johannesburg - Thousands of striking mineworkers were gathering at Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] KDC west mine on Thursday, awaiting the arrival of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Worker representative Juri Stense said they expected Vavi and a National Union of Mineworkers' (Num) regional leader to address the crowd.

The Num and some worker representatives met in Carletonville on Thursday.

Stense said the meeting was to try and iron out issues over workers' wage demands and problems they had with the regional Num leadership before the union approached the employer.

Fundiswa Gunguluza, whose husband had worked at the mine but died a few years ago, said she believed the miners would accept less than the R12 500 a month they were demanding.

She said she hoped the representatives came back with good news.

"I think people are very tired. They are tired of empty promises."

She criticised the few who were still working. "When the increase comes they will also benefit," she said.

A mineworker, who identified herself only as Zoliswa, said she earned R4 500 a month after tax.

"I hope they come back and tell us everything is okay," the 25-year-old said. "We are not going to work if they don't give us the money we need."

Gold Fields spokesperson Sven Lunsche confirmed the meeting. "We are not involved," he said.

As a strike by 15 000 employees entered its 11th day, Lunsche reiterated that Gold Fields would and could not negotiate salaries.

"We are not going to negotiate salary, and we cannot."

On Wednesday he said: "The gold mining industry, unlike the platinum industry, negotiates in a collective bargaining forum. All gold mining companies negotiate jointly with the trade unions."

He said the companies and the unions were in the midst of the latest agreement, a two-year wage and salary accord by the industry and the unions, led by the Num.

"For one member to unilaterally raise new issues is not done. We cannot suddenly, unilaterally negotiate separate salaries with our KDC workers."

The accords had worked well for the industry and the unions for almost the past two decades, said Lunsche.

"The strike is still continuing and our engagement efforts also continue at this time."

On Wednesday, Vavi had to leave the Congress of SA Trade Unions' (Cosatu) national congress to deal with the strike.

"[We have been called] to go to Carletonville where 15 000 workers have been on strike for the last 10 days, because the employer has secured an interdict which allows them to fire those workers," Vavi told delegates in Midrand, Johannesburg.

He said the interdict would apparently be put into effect on Thursday.

Num leaders accompanied Vavi to the mine.

Gold Fields secured a court interdict last Monday to end the wildcat strike. The court found that the strike was unlawful and ordered that workers return to work immediately.

Lunsche denied the company was planning to dismiss the striking workers on Thursday.

"We are considering issuing a third ultimatum under the interdict, which will then allow us to dismiss workers should we decide to do so," he said.

"We are looking at all our options and have not issued the third ultimatum yet."

Lunsche said the company planned to issue the warning sometime this week.

"We are keeping our options open, depending on developments.

"The best outcome would be if [the] Num convinces them to return to work."

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Read more on:    gold fields  |  num  |  zwelinzima vavi  |  mining unrest

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