/ 17 June 2014

Lonmin miners: We still have unresolved issues

Striking Lonmin miners gathered on Wonderkop hill during the dispute in Marikana.
Striking Lonmin miners gathered on Wonderkop hill during the dispute in Marikana.

Lonmin workers speaking to the Mail & Guardian have said that the conditions they put forward to end the strike are non-negotiable, which is why no date to return to work had been set.

Approximately 70 000 workers embarked on a strike in January 23 demanding a minimum wage of R12 500. As the strike wore on for weeks and then months, it developed into a humanitarian crisis with charity organisations such as the Gift of the Givers stepping in to provide food parcels for the starving families. The ripple effect engulfed Marikana and other neighbouring towns such as Rustenburg.

Last week, it was reported that workers asked Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa to sign on the latest offer from the three mining houses. The platinum producers have offered the two lowest pay categories of striking mineworkers an annual increase of R1 000 per month for the next two years in basic pay, and R950 for the year after. For miners, artisans and officials, there were increases of 8% per annum for the next two years, followed by 7.5% for the year after. Living allowances would remain unchanged at 2013 levels, while pension fund contributions, leave, and other allowances would change annually.

One of the key demands workers have issued to put an end to the strike involves the reinstatement of essential services colleagues dismissed for not coming work during the strike. Some of those were contract workers. “That one is unconditional,” said a Lonmin worker Anele Zonke. “If it’s not on the table, then we’re not signing at all. Right now there is no word on when we are going to work. We’ve sent our proposals about some of our demands through Amcu.”

Zonke said the 235 essential services workers fired were fired because they had expressed their legitimate fears about coming to work during the strike.

On Monday, Amcu general secretary Jeff Mphahlele told the M&G that the union was “still fine-tuning the agreement. Maybe it will be presented tomorrow [Tuesday] to the employers. We still have to agree on a number of issues that are up for consideration by both sides. Companies also still need to tell us about their logistical plans to conduct health checks, inductions and so on, so that we can relay that information to our members.”

Lonmin shaft steward Thembele Sohadi said workers were adamant that sleeping-out allowances should be kept separate from their annual increases for the next three years. “For the sleeping-out allowance, they must add money to it. We didn’t stipulate the figure, we said they must use their discretion. We said the same thing about medical aid and other benefits.”

Sohadi said that they had also demanded that the money be backpaid from October last year. “If management agrees to these, this strike is over.”

Lonmin, which does not have mining operations anywhere else outside Rustenburg, has been worst hit by the strike and attempted to include a retrenchment clause in its agreement document, which has been denied by Amcu. It was reported in the City Press that Lonmin, in a caveat filled document laden with chief executive Ben Magara’s handwriting, had asked that there should be “no striking related to any of the items covered by the wage agreement.”

Mining houses could not be reached for comment.