Day 50 for the longest strike in mine history

The Rustenburg Platinum Refinery has been the site of a bitter strike between workers and JCL management. Workers have been on strike for the better part of this year, demanding a wage increase, recognition of days significant to them and maternity leave. The management has remain adamant that it is not prepared to concede to the workers who are organized under the National Union of Mineworkers. While unions representing skilled workers settled for management's offer of 14,5 percent earlier in the dispute, the NUM branch – which represents a majority at the plant – has held to its demand of a 22 percent increase across the board.

NUM is also demanding Soweto Day, June 16 and Sharpeville Day, March 21 as paid holidays. A provident fund has also been demanded, and maternity leave on behalf of two women members of the work force. While management has agreed to discuss the question of the provident fund, workers claim they have also indicated that it will not be possible to meet this demand. According to the Bruce Theoeng, chairperson of the NUM branch in Rustenberg, 547 workers remain on strike. Management disputes this claim and puts the number of striking workers at less than 500.

JCL management this week told the Weekly Mail they will not compromise with the NUM on a wage offer, as other unions have already accepted the 14,5 percent increase. Management also will not concede to the demand for maternity leave. The strike has also been characterized by great hardships for the workers, who staged a sleep-in in an unroofed area of the factory to demonstrate their determination. Workers alleged their access to food was cut off and that they had to go without food for some days.

Management told the Weekly Mail workers were at all times free to leave and return to the plant in-between shifts. "Management is trying to break the back of the union," said Theoeng. While the deadlock lingers on, NUM workers continue to report to the plant where they are employed. However they do not pick up their tools and work.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

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Thandeka Gqubule
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