Feature image credit: Wikimedia

JSE/NYSE-listed Gold Fields reports the strike action by the National Union of Mineworkers, which began on 2 November 2018 has resulted in the mine losing four days of production.

Access to the mine has been blocked by striking National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch members, in defiance of legislation and the Court interdict obtained on 3 November 2018.

NUM has also been trying to prevent essential services teams from entering the mine, which is in contravention of the recognition agreement between the union and South Deep.

The company obtained the court interdict against the NUM – both as an organisation and against its leaders in their personal capacities – to prevent further violence and intimidation.

The SA Police Service (SAPS) is expected to enforce the interdict.

Since the beginning of the strike approximately 150 people – fewer than 3% of the South Deep workforce – have actively participated in visible protests and are using violence and intimidation to prevent their colleagues from going to work:

  • On Monday evening the offices of the UASA trade union and the Adult Education and Training (AET) Centre, where we offer literacy and numeracy training to community members, were severely damaged by arson attacks. Documentary evidence is with  legal advisors of Gold Fields with a view to bringing criminal charges against the perpetrators.
  • On Monday morning striking employees attacked, assaulted and damaged the cars of three employees who attempted to go to work.
  • On Sunday evening (4 November), a group of protestors attacked a South Deep protection services light armoured vehicle, which was transporting security employees to work. The protestors threw rocks at the vehicle, and attacked it with pangas and other home-made weapons, threatening the employees inside. Protection services employees dispersed the protesting group by firing low-velocity plastic shots. Once again Gold Fields has documentary evidence to support this. There were no reported injuries, though Gold Fields is still investigating.

Prior to the start of the strike, South Deep management engaged with both the mine’s private security contractors and the local SAPS to set out the company’s principled position that its first priority is the safety of its people, those that are on strike and those that want to work, as well as our property.

As such, only minimum force, if at all, should be employed in the event of any conflict situations.

Gold Fields calls on the NUM to end the strike and the associated violence, and return to work so that production can be restarted, losses curbed, and the company can work to make South Deep a sustainable operation.

The strike action is purportedly to try head off the necessary retrenchment of 1 500 employees and contractors.

If the strike is prolonged, it will put the remaining 3,500 jobs at South Deep at risk.

Should the strike continue, Gold Fields once again appeals to the NUM branch leadership to respect the rights of employees who choose to work, and to publicly commit to ensuring that it will not incite or condone violence or intimidation.