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National mine to strike over power crisis

Power – the reason for
next month’s national
strike in South
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 12 June 2008 – South Africa’s COSATU labour federation has announced that it intends calling a national strike next month to protest against job losses linked to the country’s ongoing power crisis, reports Reuters.

The news agency report from here confirms that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) –   representing 320 000 workers in South Africa’s giant gold and platinum mines – said it would join in the strike action. It also quotes COSATU as saying the strike would be the culmination of a series of protests in South Africa’s nine provinces starting on 2 July.

South Africa has suffered electricity shortages since the start of the year as power utility Eskom struggles to generate enough power to meet demand.

Reuters reports that the power shortages have dented economic growth, which fell to a six-and-a- half-year low of 2.1% in the first three months of 2008. This is reported to have unnerved investors and heaped pressure on President Thabo Mbeki.

Some mining groups have warned of job losses if mines are left without power again. Most mines are operating at only 95 percent of normal power requirements.

“The strike action is in response to the danger of retrenchments in the mining sector and elsewhere due to power utility Eskom’s decision to reduce electricity supply to industry, and its threat to oppose any new major construction initiatives,” COSATU said.

“The strike will begin on 2 July 2008, with provincial action, continuing throughout the month of July and culminating in a national stay-away on 30 July,” said the 2-million strong labour body.

The NUM said it would decide later this week what form its strike action would take. “As COSATU’s biggest affiliate we plan to participate in the action. There is a meeting planned for later this week to decide whether we will strike in a series of protests, or if we shall only join for a week, or only for the national strike on 30 July,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told Reuters.