News24

Miners reach deal with Amplats

2012-10-27 22:41

Johannesburg - Workers have reached a deal with Anglo American Platinum to reinstate 12 000 miners sacked for an illegal strike, which could end the last big industrial action that has rocked South Africa's massive mining sector.

Months of often violent wildcat strikes have cut production in the platinum and gold sectors, raising concerns about slowing economic growth as well as awkward questions about President Jacob Zuma's management of the most damaging labour strife since the end of apartheid in 1994.

"They agreed to reinstate all the dismissed workers on the provision that they return to work by Tuesday," said Lesiba Seshoka, spokesperson for the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Saturday.

Seshoka said he expected workers would return to their posts and "that will mean the end of the strike".

Anglo American Platinum, or Amplats, said in a separate statement it had reached the deal with several unions and offered sweeteners such as a one-off hardship payment of R2 000 to facilitate the return. The strike has lasted about six weeks and crippled production.

"Employees who do not return to work on Tuesday... will remain dismissed and/or be subjected to the illegal strike disciplinary action and will not be eligible for any of the benefits mentioned above," it said in a statement.

Strikes

While tensions may be winding down at Amplats mines, police in the area's platinum belt city of Rustenburg fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at a labour rally on Saturday to separate NUM members from other workers who have been fighting a deadly turf war for support.

Seven people were arrested and no major injuries were reported in the incident about 120km northwest of Johannesburg, police said.

In recent days, several wildcat strikes over wages and working conditions in the gold sector have come to an end with employers sacking, or threatening to sack, miners striking illegally.

South African labour law requires clear formal processes for strikes and walk-outs. Those that do not go through all the proper hoops are considered illegal, and can result in striking workers being sacked.

Mining firms usually reinstate dismissed workers because it is more expensive to train a new workforce. But some of the job losses could be permanent with employers using the labour strife to shut down marginal mines in SA.

The deal at Amplats comes after Cynthia Carroll, chief executive of parent Anglo American, announced her resignation on Friday. She had come under pressure from investors over the firm's lagging share price and continued dependence on strike-hit SA.

Anglo owns 77% of Anglo American Platinum. Although responsible for 24% of its parent's 2011 revenue, Amplats brought in just 8% of total operating profit because of soaring costs.

Symbolic


If the workers do return to Amplats, Zuma will have likely weathered a labour storm that threatened to cause problems for him as he seeks re-election as leader of the ruling African National Congress at a party meeting in December.

If Zuma wins the race to lead the party that dominates South African politics, he will be on a path to remain the country's president for another term lasting until 2019.

Zuma has called on wildcat strikers to return to work, pledged to speed up a massive infrastructure programme to improve living conditions in the mining belt and held a high-level meeting with labour and industry trying to break the impasse.

Critics saw these moves as mostly symbolic, doing little to ease the tension and saying hardball negotiation tactics from employers and weeks of lost wages had more of an effect in ending many of the strikes.

Local media said Zuma appeared to have an edge in the ANC race, in which about 4 500 local branch delegates will select the party's leaders. Zuma's foes, who see him as an ineffectual leader, could be emboldened if labour tensions flare again.

Many strikers accuse ANC leaders and their labour allies of worrying too much about their political ties and not showing enough concern for miners working deep underground.

The strikes have highlighted persistent glaring income inequality in SA, which has increased since Nelson Mandela's ANC took over following the end of white-minority rule in 1994, promising "a better life for all".

Zuma has come in for particular criticism for not responding faster to the 16 August police killing of 34 strikers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, the bloodiest security incident since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.

Comments
  • lsfreak - 2012-10-27 22:53

    Like WTF.. Your fired :/ Errr maybe not we need your skills... Your hired... If you back by Tuesday or else we'll take steps against you :D Man BaNaNa Republic isn't the word, One big JOKE sounds better :/

      aarchaic - 2012-10-28 09:50

      "Anglo American Platinum, or Amplats, said in a separate statement it had reached the deal with several unions and offered sweeteners such as a one-off hardship payment of R2 000 to facilitate the return." oonly in South Africa you get fired and then paid to come back to work... We need stronger Laws against all Ilegal activities such as wildcat strikes, arson, intimidation, violence, carrying a weapong on a strike...

  • nyiko.ngobeni.5011 - 2012-10-28 01:38

    Really? Which miners????

  • richard.lemmer1 - 2012-10-28 07:50

    Yes definately banana republic ! If these idiots could just realize that theyncanno make up with their raise what they lost in 6 weeks iovr the next 3 years !!!!

  • marilyn.docherty.9 - 2012-10-28 08:12

    When striking - Why do the strikers always arrive armed? I understand their plight but their behaviour is abomnible!

  • damien.bako - 2012-10-28 08:15

    What a spineless management they have just set a new precedent. It was a wise move by Cynthia Carroll to resign and leave the sinking ship. Now the spineless management can deal with the monster they have created. Amplats these miners made FOOLS of you, enjoy the ride!

  • nyiko.ngobeni.5011 - 2012-10-28 08:18

    @leonard The reason I ask with which miners the deal was done is because I suspect they did a deal with Num only. Just like they did with Num only last week in relation to minimum wages

  • edwin.dinake.1 - 2012-10-28 09:01

    Let's wait for tuesday and see if this is true.

  • lorato.mokwena - 2012-10-28 09:09

    do anc no what makes miners to go back to work?miners's agreement was to go back to work and expel num and join a new organisation so that they can do things legally when negotiations start next year and vote for another party in 2014 if zuma can be elected again in december conference. Num knows that as all miners who goes back to work this week have already closed all num offices in their shafts and taken the keys of all cars which num where using in their shafts as they said it belongs to them and others are going 2 be closed on mondays as shopstuard where not available to hand keys on friday so my question is as most people where saying miners must go to school if they want that kind of money are they ready for next year as i think says they will come with a solution as he was just lying so that he can retain his position

  • Tallica7 - 2012-10-28 09:19

    Spokesperson for the POWERFUL NUM... Who wrote that this? NUM is clearly everything but powerful at the moment... Making empty promises before December just ti jeep voters on board and their Political power in check...

  • glen.e.huysamer - 2012-10-28 12:13

    It just shows NUM the once mighty and all powerful sell out union is not in control anymore the workers are...period.... Num leaders are now relegated to messenger boys where they should be.

  • tinyiko.ngobeni1 - 2012-10-28 12:55

    Our very country is on stake. The poor are becoming worse poor , while the rich are becoming more rich. The wages we are getting in our country is peanuts

  • hvanheerden1 - 2012-10-28 16:44

    I trust that those Anglo employee who kept the wheels rolling during the last 6 weeks are going to get the hardship allowance of R 2000 as well.

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