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Striking Harmony Gold workers heed call to return

Sapa

Harmony Gold is "pleased and encouraged" that workers at its Kusasalethu operations abided a 6am ultimatum to return to work to avoid being fired.

Striking miners gather at Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu mine for a mass meeting to hear from Liv Shange. (Gallo)

"A large percentage of our workers have returned," said spokesperson Marian van der Walt as workers arrived en masse before the cut off time to make sure they kept their jobs.

On the evening of October 2, a group of workers prevented others from reporting for duty at the mine near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg, and operations ground to a halt.

On Monday, October 23, the mine issued an ultimatum to 5 400 workers saying that if they did not return by 6am on Thursday they would be fired.

"Thousands are going through the turnstiles," said an upbeat Van der Walt.

She said mining had not resumed immediately because the miners had to go through certain procedures such as medical checks that were compulsory after long breaks and safety checks also had to be carried out.

The company would issue a statement later on Thursday with more information on how many people had returned, whether any dismissals would be necessary and what the situation was with mining operations.

Harmony Gold will join AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields in a meeting with three unions at the Chamber of Mines on Thursday to discuss proposals related to clause 11 of a wage agreement that applies until mid-2013.

The clause addresses the wages of certain categories of the lowest paid workers and rock drill operators.

Harmony considered the strike unprotected because it had signed a wage agreement in the chamber for increases ranging between 7.5% and 10% between various job categories and a 1% profit share after capital per quarter.

When it issued the ultimatum on Monday, the company said it had lost close to 13 000 ounces of production due to the strike.

The Kusasalethu strike was part of a wave of strikes across the gold and platinum sector where workers commonly called for an increase to R12 500 and expressed dissatisfaction with their union representation.

In the platinum sector, a clash between strikers and police on August 16, left 34 people, mostly miners at Lonmin Platinum, dead. – Sapa

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