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Court orders miners back to work

Gold Fields has obtained a court interdict to force 30 000 striking miners back to work, the company said on Thursday.

”We must now serve the interdict on the National Union of Mineworkers. But I expect they will be back at work within 24 hours,” said spokesperson Willie Jacobsz.

NUM secretary general Gwede Mantashe said his members will comply with the order.

”We will retreat. We must comply with the court order,” he said.

The company’s South African operations ground to a halt on Wednesday as workers downed tools to demand an increase in a living-out allowance.

The allowance enables miners to live away from the single-sex hostels provided by the mines, and the NUM wants it increased to R1 200.

Jacobsz said the court upheld Gold Fields’ view that the strike was unprotected because the unions had signed an agreement with management on the issue in 2002.

Mantashe said the NUM will give notice immediately that it is terminating the agreement, ”so as to close that legal loophole”.

It will then address the issue again.

”We cannot allow mine workers to be given a living-out allowance of R750. It is a miscarriage of justice,” Mantashe said.

Jacobsz said earlier the company is willing to discuss the matter, but only when the miners get back to work.

Gold Fields said it loses R25-million in revenue each day it is not operational.

Meanwhile, the NUM was to meet Harmony negotiators late on Thursday afternoon in an effort to restart negotiations over resolving a strike about housing, racism and non-compliance with the mining charter at the company’s Free State mines.

The union has warned that 50 000 more Harmony workers will start striking next week in solidarity with the 21 000 already on strike in the Free State if their concerns are not addressed.

They have been on strike since last Wednesday, costing Harmony about R1-million a day. — Sapa

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