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Amcu: This time our strike will be peaceful

Sapa

After a court postponed its ruling on an interdict to stop Amcu members from gold-mine strikes, the union says its platinum protests will be peaceful.

Strikes were scheduled to take place at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu and Masimong mines, and at all AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) would do its best to stage a peaceful strike on the platinum mines in Rustenburg in the North West, an official said on Thursday morning.

"Workers are gathering at various shafts and we will address them at 8am. We have increased the number of marshals to ensure that the strike is peaceful," said Amcu co-ordinator Evans Ramokga.

The union has not said if it would go ahead with planned strikes at its gold mines. The industrial action was due to take place on Thursday for an entry-level salary of R12 500 at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu and Masimong mines, and at all AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations.

"Amcu is a majority union with about 90% of the workforce [in the platinum industry]. The remaining 10% will report for duty, but as in any strike some will not go to work fearing for their lives ... This time our strike will be peaceful. Marshals will ensure that no-one is intimidated or attacked while going to work," added Ramokga.

Forty-four people were killed during a violent strike at Lonmin's Marikana operations in August 2012. Thirty-four were killed on August 16, 2012 when the police fired at them. Another 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

Ramokga said non-striking workers were reporting for work at the Khuseleka shaft of Amplats.

"No one has been attacked or intimidated for going to work."

Concerns by CEOs
On Tuesday, the companies said Amcu's wage demands were unaffordable and unrealistic.

"It is of great concern to the platinum companies that employees are being made promises by Amcu that cannot be delivered upon," the platinum companies chief executives said in a joint statement.

Impala Platinum cancelled its Wednesday night shift at its Rustenburg operations and would continue to do so for the duration of Amcu's planned strike, the company said.

This was to mitigate the risk of violence and to ensure the safety of their employees, said spokeswoman Alice Lourens.

"There will be employees reporting for duty in daylight so they do not have to travel in darkness," she said. "During the period of the strike, there will be no night shift taking place."

Police ready
North West police said on Wednesday they were ready for the planned strike. As a legal strike it was the organisers' responsibility to ensure the strike was peaceful and picketing rules were adhered to, Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said.

"Members of the SAPS, [and] public order policing will be deployed to ensure peace and security of both the striking mine workers and the general public."

Strikers were not allowed to interfere with public order, destroy property or intimidate non-strikers.

"As the South African Police Service, we have the responsibility to ensure that the laws of the republic are enforced where there is disregard," he said.

"Safety and security is a shared responsibility and the North West provincial commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo calls upon all parties to play their part in managing the strike."

Within agreement's framework
Meanwhile, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's spokesperson Thabo Masebe said on Wednesday that the planned strike by the Amcu-aligned workers at Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin Platinum this week was within the framework agreement signed by the government, unions and mining companies.

"They are conducting the current wage negotiations under the framework of the agreement," he said

The agreement was signed in July by the government, the Chamber of Mines, the National Union of Mineworkers, Cosatu, Uasa, Solidarity and the Federation of Unions of South Africa, Masebe said.

Amcu's general secretary Jeff Mphahlele said the union had not signed the agreement "because our members were not happy with certain thing [in it]".

Mphahlele said that at a meeting on Tuesday, Motlanthe proposed that the union's leaders to take the agreement back to its members for further discussion.

"They [Amcu] did not sign it, but they agree with its framework," Masebe said. "They said they do not have a problem [with it] because it is based on the Labour Relations Act ... They just want more than what is in it [currently]."

'Commitment to work together'
The purpose of the Framework Agreement, which was signed in July, was to bring affected parties together to work on improving the problems within the sector, Motlanthe said in a speech prepared for delivery at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) 2014 labour constituency conference on Wednesday.

"Government, organised labour and organised business made a firm commitment to work together to restore peace and stability in the mines."

Some of the key factors of the agreement included:

  • Ensuring that workers and managers not be harmed for exercising their constitutional right to join a trade union of their choice, declare disputes, strike and engage in any form of peaceful protest;
  • Ensuring all matters pertaining to labour relations, including union recognition agreements, verification of membership and wage negotiations, were conducted within the Labour Relations Act; and
  • Maintaining peace during protests relating to labour disputes and protecting life and property.

"The mining sector in our country has been in turmoil and in some instances there has been lots of loss of life," said Masebe.

Many people, including investors and rating agencies, were of the view that the mining industry is on the decline, he said.

Slowing growth in China, the decline in commodity prices and the domestic work stoppages had contributed to the sector's slow growth.

Masebe urged the affected parties to use social dialogue to resolve disputes.

Application to prevent strike
Meanwhile, earlier on Wednesday, the planned Amcu strike at gold mines was left up in the air when the ruling on an application to prevent it was postponed by the Johannesburg Labour Court. Judge Hamilton Cele postponed the matter.

Gold producers represented by the Chamber of Mines resolved to challenge the legality of the strike and seek damages from the union.

Anton Myburgh, for the Chamber of Mines, argued that the Labour Court was the appropriate entity to deal with the matter as it had exclusive jurisdiction to grant an interdict. "One of the primary duties of this court ... is to interdict strikes," Myburgh said.

If Cele did not agree to issue an order preventing the strike, the chamber would ask for an interim relief order.

Cele announced just before 4pm that he would not be able to rule on the matter on Wednesday as expected. He said he was unlikely to be able to give his ruling until January 30, as he would be sitting in Cape Town next week. He therefore proposed that the strike not proceed, but said this should not be taken as an indication that he had granted the Chamber of Mines an interdict to prevent the strike. – Sapa

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