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Monday, September 3, 2012
Strike at Gold Fields mine could hit whole sector
September 3 2012 at 09:00am
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LEBOGANG SEALE AND OMPHITLHETSE MOOKI
ABOUT 12 000 workers at Gold Fields’s Kloof (KDC East) mine in Westonaria, south-west of Joburg, have vowed to continue their shutdown of mining operations in all shafts as they intensify their strike action until their demands are met.
The workers have also threatened to mobilise their colleagues in other Gold Fields mines, heightening fears that industrial action could escalate in the mining sector.
This comes after threats by desperate Aurora mineworkers, who have been without pay for four years, to shut down all Ekurhuleni mining operations from today.
“We are not going to spare your life,” one of the miners’ leaders said during a visit by expelled ANC Youth Leader president Julius Malema to the mine on Thursday.
Production at Gold Fields’s East Section was halted on Wednesday night when about 12 000 employees, including rock drillers and winch and locomotives operations, went on a wildcat strike.
The strike was sparked by what the workers said was the illegal deduction of their state pension fund. The workers have, however, added an R11 000 wage demand to their grievances.
Gold Fields, which is listed on the Johannesburg and New York stock exchanges, produces 3.5 million gold-equivalent ounces a year, according to its website. The company operates eight mines in Australia, Ghana, Peru and SA.
Workers said they were surprised to find a R69 deduction on their salary slips last month.
Alarmed, they had confronted their local leaders in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and when they could not get a satisfactory explanation, they resolved to shut down the union’s branch office.
This has again shone the spotlight on the NUM’s role following reports of fractured relationships between the union and its members at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine and other operations.
However, the NUM’s rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, has played no role at KDC East.
The miners have chosen representatives from among themselves, shunning NUM branch leaders’ representation.
More than 2 000 workers converged at around lunchtime yesterday on a hilltop that some jokingly refer to as Marikana, near the main shaft. Some had walked for about 5km from other shafts.
Brandishing knobkierries and sticks, they moved around chanting revolutionary slogans and songs while waiting for their leaders to address them.
The mine security guards watched from atop six police Casspirs, while some captured the procession on video camera.
Among the striking miners was Siphiwe Msami, 52, a rock drill operator who has worked at the mine for 32 years. He earns a gross salary of R5 600 and is left with R4 600 after deductions.
“We work so hard for nothing. I just survive on credit and it seems like I will owe until I die. Life is hard if you work in the mines, mfowethu (my brother),” said Msami, a father-of-six from Matatiele, KwaZulu-Natal.
Comments by Sonny
Imagine wild cat strikes across South Africa in the next few months.
The ANC will be so busy covering all stops that they will forget about the Mangaung Conference in Bloemfontein 2012 in December and Zuma will not get a second term in office.
South Africa will rid itself of a dictator and Law and Order will prevail!
The ideal of a Democratic South Africa will be resuscitated!