12,000 striking miners in South Africa fired

October 5, 2012

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) fired 12,000 striking miners on Oct. 5 for staging an unlawful strike that is one of several that are slowly paralyzing South Africa's crucial mining sector, the Associated Press reported.

A wave of strike throughout the country have had a serious impact on South Africa’s mining sector. About 80,000 miners, representing 16 percent of the country’s mine workforce, are currently striking.

“Approximately 12,000 striking employees chose not to make representations, nor attend the hearings, and have therefore been dismissed in their absence,” a statement from Amplats said, according to the South African Press Agency.

Violence has been reported at the company’s Rustenburg mines, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets on Oct. 4 to disperse striking miners armed with sticks and other crude weapons. A striking miner's dead body was discovered Oct. 5, the apparent victim of rubber bullets to the stomach.

Amplats is the world's largest platinum producer and South Africa produces 75 percent of the world's platinum.

At least 20,000 mineworkers at Amplats have been staging a wildcat strike since Sept. 12, demanding 12,500 rand (about $1,500) in take-home pay. Amplats managers said from the start that the strike, which brought the company's operations in Rustenburg to a standstill, is unlawful.

South Africa’s mining industry has been in turmoil since August, when mineworkers at a platinum mine staged a wildcat strike that led to police shooting and killing 34 workers in Marikana, shocking a nation that had not witnessed such a level of violence since the end of apartheid.

There seems to be no end in sight to the labor unrest, which has spread to coal and iron ore mines as well as to the road freight sector. Some 20,000 truckers demanding a 22 percent pay raise are currently staging a strike that threatens the supply of gas and groceries. Negotiations between striking truckers and the Road Freight Association “broke down” Oct. 4, according to Vincent Masoga, a spokesman for the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, which called the strike.

Masoga said the union would keep the strike going until negotiations resume. The Road Freight Employers Association, which has offered the truckers a pay increase of up to 8.5 percent, said it had obtained a court order compelling the truckers’ union to manage its strike in a way that avoids violence of the sort that has led to some trucks being set on fire.

“In essence, the order made it tougher on the unions to continue with irregular strike action,” the Road Freight Association, which lost an application to block the strike from proceeding, said in a statement.

The labor unrest has damaged South Africa’s reputation as an investment destination. South Africa produces 75 percent of the world's platinum and is the No. 4 chrome producer and the fifth-biggest gold producer.

South African President Jacob Zuma, the target of criticism by mineworkers who see him as aloof to their concerns, said Thursday that the violence witnessed in the mining sector was proof that “a climate of constructive social dialogue” needs to be created in the country.
“We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting,” Zuma told South Africa's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.



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