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Vavi vows Cosatu, Num will take mineworkers' wage struggle forward

Maryke Vermaak

Zwelinzima Vavi says the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the NUM will take forward mineworkers' demands for better wages in all sectors.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

"[The National Union of Mineworkers] will go now to the forefront and will lead the struggle of mineworkers across of all the sectors of the mining sector," Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Vavi told miners near Carletonville.


He said the Congress of South African Trade Unions would lead the struggle of all workers in the country.

"The wages have been suppressed for far too long. It is now time for us to take the battle to where it belongs – to the employer."

Vavi was addressing hundreds of striking Gold Fields workers gathering at the KDC west mine.

Workers at Gold Fields have been on strike for 20 days and demanded a monthly pay of R12 500 after deductions.

He said the R12 500 salary for rock drillers was a fair and legitimate demand "and we must pursue that amount together".

'No choice'
Vavi added that Cosatu was not calling for an illegal mining strike, but said the federation was urging the Chamber of Mines to come to the negotiation table.

"To us it seems we have no choice but to open [wage] negotiations now."

Otherwise the chamber risked continued wildcat strikes across the mining sector, Vavi said.

Vavi said the leadership of Cosatu and NUM would meet with the Chamber of Mines on Monday morning. The leaders would hold a press briefing later in the day.

There would also be a strike in Klerksdorp on Wednesday.

"We are going to lead a march of workers in the entire Klerksdorp region on Wednesday," Vavi said. "The message is one. Let's combine our effort."

He said this support would stretch to all mining sectors.

R12 500 or die'
Vavi said what he wanted for workers, along with wage demands, was to have improved working conditions and weaknesses in unions to be resolved.

He was specifically referring to women at Gold Fields who approached him saying they were exploited by shop stewards when applying for benefits after their husbands died. Some said they were asked for sexual favours in return for forms to be completed.

"It can't happen. [These women] must have their issues addressed by the end of this week," Vavi said.

He added that Cosatu's chairperson would be part of a meeting held this coming week to resolve this.

Before Vavi's arrival the miners sang and danced in anticipation.

Some were carrying posters which read: "We can't go back to work tomorrow without R12 500, equalisation, keys from NUM office, original pay slips", "We can't vote ANC if Zuma sends police to kill us" and "R12 500 or die. Without R12 500 we can't mine."'

One of the miner's representatives Sibongile Ngqwena said they called Vavi to the mine on Saturday because their leaders have let them down.

"We called Mr Vavi today because we need support from Mr Vavi, because we need this R12 500, because we don't have the support from NUM leadership. He promised to come and give us this support."

Last week NUM president Senzeni Zokwana told striking mineworkers the union would meet the Chamber of Mines to discuss wages of mine workers nationally.

He said they would discuss a minimum wage for workers in both the coal and gold mining sector.

But Ngqwena said they have not heard anything from him. "Since he came here he failed to support us, he failed to represent us."

Earlier this month, Gold Fields secured a court interdict to end the wildcat strike. The court found that the strike was unlawful and ordered that workers return to work immediately.

Spokesperson Sven Lunsche said the court order had been ignored.

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