Over 13 500 workers returned to work at Impala Platinum in Rustenburg by Wednesday afternoon in what may be an end to a six-week-long illegal strike, the company said.
“Today at a meeting of Implats, the National Union of Mineworkers and a delegation of rock drill operators, it was agreed to call an end to the illegal work stoppage,” Implats said in a statement.
“The company hopes that this also signals the end to the violence and intimidation.”
By close of business, around 13 500 people had re-applied for their jobs. This included more than 3 000 rock drill operators, who were vital to get the mine up and running again. The mine planned to resume production on Monday.
“We hope to start phasing in production from Monday, March 5, following safety inductions and medical screening for all returning employees.”
Earlier, NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said workers were returning in busloads.
“Buses were full today with people going back to work.”
Implats said it would favour dismissed employees when filling positions over the next few days.
“Implats has resolved that in the filling of open positions over the next few days, returning employees will be given preference on a first-come, first-served basis over new applicants, and will receive their old benefits and terms and conditions.”
Implats had previously only agreed to rehire 15 000 of the 17 200 dismissed workers.
On Wednesday it said once it had reached 15 000 it would keep a list of names who would be given preference when new jobs became available.
More violence was reported on Wednesday morning. North West police spokesperson Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said there were two attacks involving Implats workers.
“In the first incident, an RDP house belonging to a 41-year-old man was attacked in Freedom Park by an unknown group of people,” he said, referring to the informal settlement near Rustenburg.
The windows of his car and house were broken when the group threw stones.
Four Implats workers on their way to work were attacked, allegedly by a group of striking miners, in Freedom Park Phase Two.
“The victims were attacked with knobkerries and sustained injuries to the head, legs and body,” Ngubane said.
They were taken to the Impala hospital for treatment. Police were investigating a case of malicious damage to property and three cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Implats fired the 17 200 workers after they refused to return to work earlier this month, despite a court interdict declaring a strike they embarked on in January, illegal.
Since then, three people had been killed in violence involving dismissed workers. Scores of people were injured in violent intimidation, while over 100 people were arrested for public violence.
During the six-week strike Implats lost 100 000 platinum ounces, which was equivalent to lost revenue of around R2-billion, the company said on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, suspended ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema urged the fired workers to return to work.
When problems first started at the mine in January, the rock drill operators, who had downed tools, refused to involve the NUM in resolving their dispute.
Another union, the Association of Mining and Construction Union, was blamed for exploiting employee dissatisfaction. — Sapa