The General-Secretary of South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says members of the group will begin a strike Tuesday to press home their demands for better living conditions.
“The strike ignited because the employers failed to respond to the reasonable demands submitted by the National Union of Mineworkers on behalf of its workers, among others, it is the recognition of the difficult underground environment it cannot be compared with the hospitality industry,” said NUM General-Secretary Frans Baleni.
Baleni says mine employers have refused to meet workers’ demands, despite repeated appeals. Baleni’s comments came after Anglo Platinum Mines announced it will begin retrenching about 3,000 of its workers, beginning Tuesday.
The workers are demanding about 60 percent pay increase, but the mine owners are offering between six to 6.5 percent.
“What the employers are offering is six percent and 6.5 percent, which is below the inflation in some instances. Our members are saying even if we do not strike, we are still going to be laid-off, so there is no point in not fighting for a living wage rather than say let us give in,” said Baleni.
Some of the union leaders have expressed concern of possible violence after accusing the employers of poorly handling discussions to meet workers’ demands for better living conditions.
At the time of publication, NUM representatives and employers have been held up in meetings in an attempt to finding a solution to avert Tuesday’s strike. This came as a mine workers group pulled out of the strike, after accepting an offer from the employers.
“We are asking the employers to come onboard to prevent the strike. We are still calling for them to put something on the table to avert the strike,” said Baleni.
Some analysts say the strike could cripple the country’s mining industry. But, Baleni says NUM will continue to fight for the rights of its members, despite the imminent retrenchment of its members.
“It is a concern to us because already we are facing possibility of layoff. About four of the gold mining companies have started some kind of layoff and we are extremely worried about it,” said Baleni.
The government has yet to intervene in the negotiations between management and the union representatives.
“We have said that the government should not interfere in terms of the collective bargaining process. But the government must equally be concerned about potential layoff, which will impact negatively on the economy as well as when the government must come in to assist those who have been laid-off,” said Baleni.
Clottey interview with Frans Baleni, NUM's General Secretary