Back to work, Vavi tells Implats miners

2012-02-23 22:37
Rustenburg - Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Thursday urged striking mineworkers at Impala Platinum's (Implats) Rustenburg operation to return to work.

"Let us go back," he told the group at the stadium in Freedom Park, Rustenburg. They shouted back that they were not prepared to do so. Vavi told the workers a meeting had been set for Friday between Cosatu and Implats to discuss the strike.

He said Cosatu would argue that all dismissed workers should be reinstated with the same benefits they enjoyed before the strike.

"It will not help for us to go back one by one. Let us all go back to work, and allow negotiations to continue."

Leaders of the striking workers told Vavi they would not to return to their jobs unless their demands for a R9 000 monthly salary, after deductions, were met.

“Why do we go underground without money?” asked one worker, Eunice Moraka.

“Ga re e koo, [we are not going there],” the crowd responded, referring to the mine. Moraka said they embarked on an unprotected strike because when they went on legal strikes they returned to work empty-handed.

Implats workers had been on an unprotected strike for five weeks.

"Sifuna R9 000 [We want R9 000]," workers sang while waving placards reading "Vavi help us, we are in danger by Impala, we want R9000", as they waited for him to arrive at the stadium.

When he failed to arrive at 16:00 they grew restless and started leaving. They shouted down Rustenburg mayor Mpho Khunou when he tried to restore order. Vavi arrived 20 minutes later and was escorted by police to convince the crowd to return to the venue. The crowd ran down the road towards the sports ground, shouting "Vavi, Vavi, Vavi".

He told them he had been in a meeting with Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and also had to attend a meeting with the National Union of Metalworkers of SA.

Before he could speak, Cosatu North West provincial secretary Solly Phetoe and Khunou were escorted off the stage at the insistence of the audience.

Workers shouted they did not want to see the two alongside Vavi. They wanted their leaders to share the stage with him instead.

The mine fired 17 000 of its employees after they refused to return to work. The National Union of Mineworkers negotiated with Implats to re-employ them but the majority, especially those at the mine's southern shaft, refused to go back to work unless their demands were met.

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