South African Miners Down Tools as Industrial Unrest Spreads

Filed under: Business |
South African miners2 photo

More miners down tool and demand livable wages

Unrest among South African miners is spreading, after strikes at a Lonmin mine last week resulted in the police massacre of 34 striking miners.

About 500 workers at the nearby Royal Bafokeng platinum mine downed tools on Wednesday and blocked fellow miners from going to work.

Anglo American Platinum, which is 80%-owned by London-listed Anglo American, has also received a list of demands from a group of workers in South Africa, but the company insisted they were not threatening strike action.

Managers from Lonmin met workers’ representatives on Tuesday night for the first time since 34 Marikana mine strikers were shot by police. Ten other people, including two police officers, died in violence earlier last week.

The 3,000 striking rock drillers are demanding that their wages be trebled from 4,000 rand (£304) a month to 12,500 rand a month, and want the release of the 259 people arrested after the police crackdown last Thursday.

Anglican Bishop Johannes Seoka, who was chairing the talks on Tuesday, told reporters: “All we ask management is to allow workers to give them their demands, to listen to them and to engage with them because the workers have been asking just to talk. If they had talked earlier on, the massacre would have been avoided.”

A spokesman for Lonmin said the talks were not a wage negotiation, but rather “a private discussion about how to get employees back to work”.

South Africa’s fiddling  president Jacob Zuma has entered the debate, telling workers on Wednesday that he would speak to Lonmin about their wage demands.

The Lonmin workers’ demands have been echoed by rock drillers at Royal Bafokeng, who have halted work at the nearby Rasimone platinum mine. The company said it was “making every effort to understand the reasons for and to resolve this action”.

Anglo American Platinum played down the demands it has received from workers, saying it was “a fairly regular occurrence”.

A spokesman said: “This was not a union demand or request, this was a group of workers who made a direct request to the mine’s management.”

But commentators suggest this is a major problem facing the mining industry who have long depended on slave like labour to maximize profits by keeping production costs low.

What is particularly interesting here here is that the miners are bypassing the National Union of Mineworkers suggesting a total lack of trust in the traditional mining union setup.