Operations at Northam Platinum’s Zondereinde mine in Limpopo have been temporarily suspended to secure safety and security of employees and company assets during an unprotected strike that started on Tuesday night.
“This decision has been taken amidst rising tension at the mine, owing to incidents of intimidation, assault and threats of violence towards non-striking employees and damage to property on 15 January 2015,” spokeswoman Marion Brower said in a statement.
This is despite the fact that the Labour Court granted an interim interdict to end the strike on Wednesday. “A large number of employees signalled a desire to return to work on 15 January in line with the direction of the Labour Court,” she said.
40% of the 6 600 workforce members clocked in for the Thursday morning shift.
Currently, only essential services employees are expected to report for duty as per existing agreements. However, the company has warned that disciplinary proceedings, including dismissals, would be implemented for those who did not return to work following the interdict.
NUM to “fight to the bitter end”
Ecliff Tantsi, chief negotiator for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at Northam Platinum, said the workers’ demands were policy-related. Mine management was engaging with the NUM to try and normalise operations.
NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu has said that the strikers, who want the chief executive removed over what they say are unfair hiring and firing practices, will “fight to the bitter end. Progressive policies in hiring are not being followed at Northam and the workers say they fought hard for those policies.”
Platinum industry still recovering
This comes at a time when the platinum industry is still in the process of recovering from the five-month strike last year by another local union the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which hit Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin.
The strike, which began on 23 January 2014, has been South Africa’s longest and costliest strike, with employers forfeiting revenue of approximately R24 billion and employees losing earnings of some R10.6 billion.