Johannesburg, South Africa — 19 October 2012 – South African workers officially ended a month-long strike at major bullion producer Gold Fields today, but there was still no end in sight for wildcat walkouts that have paralysed other gold and platinum producers.
Reuters reports that more than 80,000 miners have downed tools in the resource-rich country since August in often violent strikes over pay and working conditions that are hitting growth and investor confidence in Africa’s biggest economy and raising questions about President Jacob Zuma’s leadership.
Nearly 50 people have died in labour strife since August, including 34 striking miners shot dead on August 16 at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in the deadliest security incident since the end of white-minority rule.
Thousands of Lonmin workers staged a one-day walkout yesterday to protest against the arrests of colleagues who are suspected of murdering rival labour leaders. Lonmin said today it was back to normal operations.
Gold Fields, the world’s No. 4 producer, said about 11,000 workers, threatened with dismissal if they did not return by yesterday, had returned to work at its KDC West operations in Carletonville, 40 km west of Johannesburg.
“At KDC West the strike is officially over. The 1,500 employees who did not report for work before yesterday’s deadline were dismissed but had until midday today to appeal their dismissal,” said company spokesman Sven Lunsche.
Yesterday, all of the 9,000 workers at its Beatrix mine in the Free State province returned and Lunsche said the remaining 8,500 on strike at its KDC East operations would be issued an ultimatum “anytime now.”
“The raiding of hostels and disarming of strikers gave workers the confidence to return to work,” Lunsche added.
AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s No. 3 gold producer, is relying on negotiations at the Chamber of Mines to end the strikes at its South African operations.
Gold companies represented by the chamber yesterday tweaked a proposal to lift the pay of the lowest paid workers in a bid to end the illegal strikes.
“Harmony’s Kusasalethu is still on an unprotected strike. Other operations in Harmony are still in operation,” said spokeswoman Henrika Basterfield.
A month-long strike at Anglo American Platinum is no closer to ending. The company has sacked 12,000 at its Rustenburg operations.
Lonmin, the world’s No 3 platinum producer, today said its operations in South Africa were back to normal after about 4,000 employees had walked out a day earlier.
Operations at its Marikana mine in South Africa were disrupted yesterday as thousands of employees left their posts to protest the arrests of colleagues suspected of killing rival labour leaders.
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.