Some Amplats strikers defy return deadline
Tensions ease at other South African mines
RUSTENBURG — Some striking workers at Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) Rustenburg mines refused to return to work on Tuesday despite an offer by the company to reinstate 12,000 men sacked for taking part in a six-week wildcat walkout.
Months of labour unrest in the mines have hit platinum and gold output, threatened growth in Africa’s biggest economy and drawn criticism of President Jacob Zuma for his handling of the most damaging strikes since the end of apartheid in 1994.
However, the number of strikes has dropped in the last two weeks amid management threats of mass dismissals and some payment sweeteners.
At Amplats’ Thembelani mine near Rustenburg, 120km northwest of Johannesburg, hundreds of miners barricaded a road to one of the shafts with burning tyres.
“No one is at work today unless they snuck in,” Mayford Mjuza, a worker representative, told Reuters as a police helicopter hovered nearby.
Amplats, the world’s biggest producer of the precious metal, said it was still gathering details on attendance at its four strike-hit Rustenburg mines.
The company said last week it had reached a deal with several unions and would be offering sweeteners such as a one-off hardship payment of 2,000 rand to end a strike that has crippled production.
A return to work on Tuesday was one of the conditions attached to the deal.
However, workers at Thembelani said they were determined to stay away until Amplats matched a salary increase of up to 22% offered by rival Lonmin after a violent wildcat walkout at its nearby Marikana platinum mine in August.
The Lonmin offer came in the wake of the police killing of 34 miners on Aug. 16, the bloodiest security incident since apartheid.
MacDonald Motsaathebe, who has been with Amplats for 12 years, said workers did not agree to the deal struck at the weekend between Amplats and unions including the National Union of Mineworkers.
“We didn’t agree to the offer. We want 16,000 rand. Lonmin miners got it, and we want it,” said the 35-year-old, whose salary supports nine people. “We earn peanuts.”
Workers are expected to meet later on Tuesday.
While the situation at Amplats has yet to be resolved, tensions at other mining companies have eased.
Striking workers at gold firms including AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields returned to work last week after threats of mass dismissals and an offer of a small pay increase.