73 mineworkers fired

SEVENTY-THREE mineworkers in Mapani outside Musina have been fired.

The Syferfontein mineworkers were dismissed yesterday after a dispute over wages with management.

The workers had complained that their R1200 monthly wage was illegal in terms of labour conditions in the mining sector.

They accused management of violating their conditions of employment.

The company mines magnesite, a white stone extracted from a dusty open pit.

The workers said they had decided to hold a protest march because their rights were being violated in and out of the mine and they wanted their disputes to be resolved.

"We had a notice to march on Tuesday, but while we were marching the police stopped us ," said the spokesperson of the fired workers, Kathutshelo Muthego.

The workers marched peacefully and blocked the entrance to the mine, demanding that management adheres to the recommended wages and safety regulations.

The workers said their wages were unacceptable and they had been disput ing them for months now.

Muthego said they were forced to work for R6,67c an hour instead of the recommended R15,68c, which translates into R2500 a month.

Muthego said their safety clothes were also not proper for digging and exposure to dust.

"The tattered work suits and safety boots expose us to injuries.

Some of us get injured and you will be told to drink water and sleep.

"There's not even medical treatment, you nurse yourself," Muthego said.

"This has been happening for years and we work without leave. We are being forced to work on Sunday and paid ordinary rates," he said

The workers said the conditions at the mine were reminiscent of apartheid times when "mine workers were abused, harassed and rewarded with injuries and a peanuts salary".

"We work for peanuts and the labour department does not care.

"We have been reporting our problems but nothing has changed," Muthego said.

Syferfontein group managing director Dane Cresswell refused to comment, saying he was not the spokesperson for the mine.