South African labour dispute spreads, as 36,000 platinum and gold miners stay home

by Isi Esene

The labour dispute in South Africa doesn’t seem to be simmering down anytime soon.

The strike in the Lonmin mines which resulted in the killing of several striking miners has spread to other mines with over 10,000 miners joining the strike from the west section of Gold Fields International’s KDC gold mine.

The strike was started primarily due to a deep-rooted rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and a breakaway union.

Sven Lunsche, spokesman of the strikers at the KDC gold mine told reporters that miners are demanding a minimum wage of $1,560 and the removal of NUM shop stewards from their mines.

All efforts by the management of the Lonmin mines to get workers back to work proved abortive with the mine, yesterday, recording about 1,680 workers in attendance, a mere 6% of its total staff strength at its Marikana mines, northwest of Johannesburg.

Strikers have threatened to kill any miners or managers who do not respect their demand for all work to stop until Lonmin agrees to a monthly take-home pay of $1,560, about double their current wages.

Though some of the miners complained to reporters about finding it difficult to feed their families, many of them remain resolute not to back down until their wage demands are met.

The South African police recently shot and killed 34 miners and wounded 78 at Marikana, a mass shooting which has drawn severe criticisms from observers necessitating the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the massacre with the mandate to submit its report to President Jacob Zuma by January 2013.

The South African Human Rights Commission have however waded into the inquiry following various allegations accusing law enforcement agencies of shooting miners just as they surrendered their arms or running for cover from a hail of police bullets.

With the mine workers refusing to return to work until their demands are met, the strike at the South African gold and platinum mines will not only bite at the SA economy but also the trust between the mine managers, the mine workers, and the Zuma government.

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