Anglo American S. Africa miners reject dismissals
- Published: 6/10/2012 at 10:49 AM
- Online news:
Hundreds of the 12,000 miners sacked by the world's largest platinum producer in South Africa on Saturday rejected their dismissal at a rally that also mourned a colleague killed in clashes with police.
Some of the 12,000 miners sacked by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) protest their dismissal during a rally at Bleskop Stadium in Rustenburg. The protesters also gathered to protest their dismissal and mourn a colleague killed in clashes with police.
Their leaders spoke to the workers at a stadium in the northern town of Rustenburg and encouraged them to reject the dismissal by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), and to keep protesting until they win a pay rise.
"This is the beginning of the war," one leader, Gaddhafi Mdoda, said to loud cheers.
"Management is just trying to frustrate us. We won't back down," said another, George Tyobeka.
"If Anglo American are not willing to put something on the table, they must pack their things and go," Mdoda told AFP.
Some workers said they would use violence to force mine management to rehire them.
"If they are not willing to talk to us many things will be burnt starting from today," said Hendrick Mpondo, 27.
"Right now some of the workers were planning to go and burn the smelters."
Workers observed a moment of silence for a colleague who died during clashes with police on Thursday, near a hill where they have been staging daily demonstrations.
Despite threats of violence, the workers later dispersed peacefully, but vowed to continue their protests until their demands are met.
Most of them were unarmed, unlike on other occasions where sticks and other forms of homemade weapons have been brandished.
Workers are pushing for at least the 11-22 percent raises that those at Lonmin's nearby Marikana mine received after a strike that left 46 dead, 35 of whom were killed by police.
While Amplats workers dug in their heels, another platinum miner Atlatsa Resource Corporation, in the northern province of Limpopo, announced that it had sacked most of the 3,500 striking workers who had been on illegal strike for nearly two weeks.
The workers employed at the firm's Bokoni operation were fired in absentia after they failed to appear before a disciplinary hearing.
Atlatsa is a joint venture with Anglo American Platinum.
According to the mine, the workers have three days to appeal their dismissal.
Violent strikes, particularly in the platinum and gold sector, have halted production, since wildcat stoppages over pay started in August.
At least seven people were killed this week around the Rustenburg platinum belt.
In Marikana on Friday evening a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch leader was shot dead in what the union has described as an assassination.
"The NUM is shocked at yet another assassination of one of its branch leaders in Marikana," the union said in a statement.
"This comes after the death of the NUM branch chairperson last weekend and the attack on another branch leader who escaped while his wife was killed."
Unions have come under fire as workers reject the traditional negotiation structures and accuse their guilds of conniving with mine managers.
Around 28,000 Amplats workers have been on a wildcat strike for three weeks at the firm's sprawling facilities in Rustenburg, which account for around a quarter of world platinum production.
The company said the strike had so far cost 700 million rand ($80 million, 60 million euros) in lost revenue.
But with many miners unwilling to give up their demands for higher pay and Amplats taking a tough line, the spectre of violence looms.
At least seven people have been killed around Rustenburg in strike-related volence this week.
With around 100,000 workers currently on strike across the country, President Jacob Zuma -- who has publicly kept his distance from the crisis -- has called for the work stoppages to end.
"We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting," he told business leaders in Johannesburg Friday.
Investors, already spooked by earlier violence, warned the Amplats dismissals could deepen a crisis that has already paralysed an industry accounting for around 20 percent of the continental powerhouse's GDP.
"The government is doing nothing," said Peter Attard Montalto, a strategist with Japanese bank Nomura, who warned the strikes had already shaved 0.2 to 0.3 percent off third quarter growth.
Analysts have warned that the strikers' demands will result in job losses in the country where one in every four employable people is already out of work.
In February, Amplats' rival Impala Platinum fired 17,000 workers, only to rehire them a few weeks later as part of a wage agreement.
Amplats on Friday indicated it was open to "exploring the possibility of bringing forward wage negotiations within our current agreements."
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency