Mining bosses to blame for strikes – Vavi

2012-10-02 11:25

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has blamed mining bosses for the wildcat strikes besetting the industry.

Addressing a joint press briefing of Cosatu and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Vavi said mining bosses should shoulder responsibility for the spreading strikes, as companies such as Impala had opted to raise the wages of some workers outside the existing bargaining arrangements.

Lonmin recently settled for a 22% wage increase after a drawn-out strike.

“Expectations have been raised, not by NUM but by employers, and the recent mine workers’ strikes are a response to the employer’s miscalculation.

“We wish to emphasise that employers have made a grave error that now threatens every foundation of the industrial relations system in our country,” he said.

Both NUM and Cosatu have now opted to support the wildcat strikes, and will be leading negotiations with the Chamber of Mines for collective bargaining in the platinum sector.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said the wage demands ranged between R12 500 and R21 500.
Vavi said the federation and NUM were behind workers’ demands for better pay and improved working conditions.

Some employers have threatened to fire employees who have embarked on unprotected strikes if they did not return to work.

Several companies have put their development plans on ice, thwarting potential future job creation in the mining sector.

However, Cosatu has called on employers not to make good on their threat to dismiss striking workers.
Baleni said this had already led to five deaths at the weekend in Rustenburg, where NUM members have been targeted by their rivals, since AngloPlat started issuing notices of dismissal.

NUM leaders also sought to dispel claims that their union had lost legitimacy in the eyes of mine workers.

The violence has been blamed on the union’s inability to carry out its work among members.

“We don’t have the capacity to match violence with violence. But when it comes to service delivery, we will outsmart you,” Baleni said.

It has also emerged that both the ANC and the Department of Minerals and Energy have endorsed Cosatu’s call for a “high-powered” commission of inquiry to investigate “the employment and social conditions of workers in the mining industry historically and at present”.

The call was initially made at the labour federation’s elective congress in Midrand more than two weeks ago, and comes after President Jacob Zuma appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the Marikana tragedy.

“Consultations will proceed with all stakeholders to finalise its terms of reference before an appropriate announcement is made,” Vavi said.

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