Digging for R12 500

2012-09-29 19:04

That’s the magic number miners across Rustenburg are holding out for.

Strike season in Rustenburg’s troubled platinum fields took another turn this week when mine workers took their
fight for a R12 500 basic salary underground.

As workers dispersed in boisterous song after being told that Impala Platinum (Implats) had agreed to hike their salaries on Thursday afternoon, news filtered through that workers at Samancor’s Buffelspoort operations had downed tools and staged a sit-in underground.

They, too, are demanding a R12 500 basic monthly salary and a R1 500 sleep-out allowance, plus a further R1 500 underground allowance.

Mametlwe Sebei, the leader of a group called the Democratic Socialist Movement, said the workers had decided to meet underground after being denied permission to hold a meeting for the past two weeks.

Two weeks ago, a ministerial task team released stringent conditions under which workers should conduct their meetings, following a violent six-week strike in Marikana for a basic salary of R12 500, during which 46 people died.

According to some of the regulations, workers should apply for prior permission to hold meetings, which should be conducted in proper venues, and are prohibited from carrying weapons of any nature or placards inciting violence.

Sebei, whose organisation is behind a structure calling itself the Rustenburg Joint Strike Coordinating Committee, slammed the regulations, saying they amounted to a state of emergency.

The workers emerged from their underground sit-in on Friday afternoon, adamant they would not return to work until their demands were met.

The platinum fields have been in turmoil since January, when more than 3 000 workers at Implats went on an illegal strike demanding a basic monthly salary of R9 000.

But strike season seems to have gone into full swing following Lonmin’s decision to grant workers increases of up to 22%.

Since then, thousands of workers from Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) have demanded a minimum wage of R16 070.

At Samancor’s Mooinooi and Buffelspoort shafts, workers are demanding a R12 500 basic monthly salary.

Sebei said they are planning to mobilise all workers in the mining sector to march on the Union Buildings on October 13 to demand a standard living wage and to call for an end to labour brokers.

Sebei also said they have been mobilising mine workers for the past four years, which is the reason there has been a series of strikes since January.

He said they were not aligned to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) or the Friends of the Youth League, both of which have been notable supporters of the mining strikes.

Sebei said the organisation was on a mission to mobilise workers to campaign for trade unions to pull out of the tripartite alliance.

In a week of high drama in which Amplats said the employee attendance rate at its Rustenburg mines remained below 20%, chief executive Chris Griffith issued a warning that they “have been left with no choice but to initiate disciplinary action, which
could lead to dismissals”.

At the same time, Implats announced that it was going to implement a market-related salary adjustment for its employees which would add 4.8% to its wage bill.

The workers had demanded a 10% wage hike, but the figure they actually received was not revealed.

Although the news of the increase was welcomed by the workers who were addressed by Amcu representatives, there was dissatisfaction over the non-arrival of Julius Malema, who was scheduled to address the workers.

According to a message sent by the Friends of the Youth League, Malema was supposed to address the workers as
“part of the economic freedom struggles and workers’ demands for better wages and working conditions”.

But with less than two hours to go before the meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Friends of the Youth League sent text messages to journalists saying his visit had been cancelled “because it has come to our attention that members of the SAPS were instructed by a politician to arrest us since the mine workers and event organisers were refused a permit to hold the meeting”.

Workers carried placards singing the expelled ANC Youth League president’s praises.

Amcu spokesperson Khaya Mzimeli confirmed that they were disappointed. He said: “Malema was with us during the strike in January and wanted to be here.

“The workers are very disappointed because they regard him as their leader.”

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