Rustenburg, South Africa — 30 October 2012 – Some striking workers at Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) Rustenburg mines in South Africa refused to return to work today, despite an offer by the company to reinstate 12,000 men sacked for taking part in a six-week wildcat walkout.
Reuters reports that months of labour unrest in the mines have hit platinum and gold output, threatened growth in Africa’s biggest economy and drawn criticism of President Jacob Zuma for his handling of the most damaging strikes since the end of apartheid in 1994.
However, the number of strikes has dropped in the last two weeks in the face of management threats of mass dismissals and some payment sweeteners.
At Amplats’ Thembelani mine near Rustenburg, 120 km north-west of Johannesburg, hundreds of miners barricaded a road to one of the shafts with burning tyres.
“No one is at work today unless they snuck in,” worker representative Mayford Mjuza told Reuters as a police helicopter hovered nearby.
Amplats, the world’s biggest producer of the precious metal, said it was still gathering details on attendance at its four strike-hit Rustenburg mines.
The company said last week that it had reached a deal with several unions and would be offering sweeteners such as a one-off hardship payment of R2,000 to end a strike that has crippled production.
A return to work today was one of the conditions attached to the deal.
However, workers at Thembelani said they were determined to stay away until Amplats matched a salary increase of up to 22% offered by rival Lonmin after a violent wildcat walkout at its nearby Marikana platinum mine in August.
The Lonmin offer came in the wake of the police killing of 34 miners on 16August in the bloodiest security incident since apartheid.
Workers are expected to meet later today.
While the situation at Amplats has yet to be resolved, tensions at other mining companies have eased. Striking workers at gold firms, including AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields, returned to work last week after threats of mass dismissals and an offer of a small pay increase.
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.