Strike nation – Mining firms still see firings as the last resort

2012-10-06 14:14

While at least one mining company has fired striking employees and another has threatened to follow suit,
others are still hoping that negotiations will lead to a return to industrial peace.

Gold One International could become the second strike-hit company to fire striking workers.

The company suspended 1 450 of its 1 900 workers at its Cooke 4 shaft, outside Randfontein on the West Rand, since the onset of an illegal strike earlier this week.

Spokesperson Grant Stuart said those workers who were unable to explain their absence would face  dismissal.

If Gold One goes ahead with its threat to embark on disciplinary proceedings against its employees, it will follow on Anglo American Platinum’s decision on Friday to fire 12 000 workers.

Stuart said: “We will not be held ransom by people who act outside of the legal framework.”

In June, Gold One dismissed 1 035 workers at its Modder East mine on the East Rand, also due to an illegal strike.

The combined 48 000 workers who have been on strike at Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti’s operations may, however, encounter more leniency from their employers following discussions on Thursday between the Chamber of Mines and union federation Cosatu, which was aimed at bringing the ongoing spate of wildcat strikes to an end.

The gold and coal members of the Chamber of Mines agreed to fast-track a job regrading exercise that could result in additional wage increases for entry-level workers within the parameters of the two sectors’ existing wage agreements.

Cosatu and its affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers, are for their part attempting to regain the initiative where workers have largely decided to act outside formal labour structures.

The respective chief executives of Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti, Nic Holland and Mark Cutifani, were not prepared to state it explicitly but have seemingly committed themselves to not dismissing any striking employees for the time being.

“We won’t be looking to do anything that will jeopardise the goodwill that was created here,” Cutifani said.

Kumba Iron Ore, the owner of the Sishen iron ore mine in Northern Cape, has also said negotiations – rather than a confrontational approach – would for now remain its preferred method of bringing a strike by 300 out of 127 000 employees at Sishen to an end.

The workers are striking inside the grounds of the mine, where operations have subsequently been suspended.

“We will continue to talk and engage until we cannot talk any more,” said spokesperson Gert Schoeman, who added that deliveries to the mine’s customers remain unaffected for the time being. The group of striking miners have demanded a salary increase to R15 000.

Last year, all of Kumba’s non-management workers received a pre-tax payout of R570 000 following the maturation of the company’s five-year employee share ownership scheme.

Mining Strike Hot Spots

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