Striking Implats workers firm on demands

2012-02-21 11:03

Striking workers at Impala Platinum’s (Implats) Rustenburg operations have vowed not to return to work unless their minimum pay demand was met.

They went on strike five weeks ago, demanding that they be paid a minimum of R9 000 a month.

Worker Mothobi Mobeang said rockdrill operators went on strike on January 20 when they did not get a bonus that was paid to miners.

“We felt the mine was taking us for granted because they think operators are not educated like miners. The reality is that operators are doing the core of the job unlike miners,” Mobeang said.

At a meeting conducted in “fanagalo”, workers vowed not to return to work unless they were paid R9 000 after deductions. Fanagalo is a Zulu-based pidgin language incorporating some Xhosa, English and Afrikaans and is mainly used in the country’s mines.

Today, workers reacted angrily when they heard that Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi would address them later in the afternoon.

“Where was he before things got out of hand?” they shouted.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said Vavi was expected to speak to workers at 3.30pm.

Striking workers sat under umbrellas at a local sports ground while others carried knobkerries and sang struggle songs near the railway track, waiting for Vavi’s arrival.

Police were keeping watch and a police helicopter was circling around the area where the striking workers had gathered.

On Saturday, NUM urged strikers to return to work.

“The NUM is committed to a peaceful resolution at Implats and appeals to all its members and workers in general to return to the operations next week when their issues are being addressed,” Seshoka said.

He said the union met Implats management on Friday in an attempt to resolve the impasse.

Implats agreed to re-employ 17 000 workers who had been
dismissed for striking illegally.

The union said that if Implats failed to meet its commitments when all workers returned to work, it would call a general strike at the company’s operations.
Rockdrillers at the mine embarked on an illegal strike in January after refusing to accept they would not get a bonus.

About 5 000 of them were dismissed. They then began protesting, intimidating and assaulting people trying to get to and from work in the township outside Rustenburg.

The rest of the mine’s 17 000 workers were dismissed on January 30 for not being at work.

Protesters stepped up their action, barricading roads to Freedom Park, stoning cars and looting shops. They also torched a satellite police station in Freedom Park.

A miner was shot dead and at least seven people were injured in overnight violence linked to the dispute, police said yesterday.

This was the second death related to the labour dispute. Last week a man was found dead at a workers’ hostel.
Seven people were injured on Sunday night in a clash between police and a group of people trying to damage a mine shaft.

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