National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) strikeOver 4 600 members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) working at Northam Platinum’s Zondereinde mine have been directed by the Labour Court to return to work.

Northam Platinum’s urgent application for an interdict in respect of the unprotected industrial action at the Zondereinde mine was granted by the Labour Court yesterday. Employees have been directed to return to work and failure to do so could result in disciplinary action or possibly dismissal.

Unprotected industrial action

The industrial action started from the night shift on 13 January 2015. “Management has since received a communique from the NUM with regard to its concerns, which appear to relate to recruitment, disciplinary and leave processes and agreements,” Northam Platinum said in a statement.

In terms of the recognition agreement with the NUM and the provisions of the Labour Relations Act, Northam has established processes and channels in place to deal with issues of this nature without resorting to industrial action.

40% of workers return to work

Following the court interdict served on Northam Platinum’s striking Zondereinde employees yesterday, over 40% of the shift complement (of some 4,600 people) reported for the morning shift at the mine today.

Management has provided those remaining striking employees with a final opportunity to return to work by 16 January 2015 failing which disciplinary measures will be instituted as provided for in the Labour Court’s interdict declaring the strike to be unprotected. This disciplinary process may include dismissal.

Smelter operations remain unaffected, the company said.

No stranger to strike action

Previously, starting on 3 November 2013, Northam Platinum suffered an 11-week strike at its Zondereinde mine, one of the longest in the South African labour environment. The JSE-listed platinum mining company saw its production at Zondereinde slashed by almost 30% to 3 477kg.

This was followed by a five-month platinum strike in South Africa, which was the longest and costliest that the country had ever seen, with over 70 000 miners downing tools at Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin. It had cost the companies about R24 billion in lost output and workers R10.6 billion in wages by the time it ended on 24 June.

The strike pushed the economy into contraction in the first three months of this year as mining output plunged, especially because South Africa accounts for more than two thirds of mined production of the metal.

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