Over 80,000 South African gold miners launched a strike Tuesday against what union officials call ”slave wages” and employer “arrogance,” bringing one of the country’s key industries to a screeching halt.
The AMC government-allied National Union of Miners, which represents 64 percent of the approximately 120,000 gold miners in South Africa, declared the strike after rejecting a 6.5 percent wage increase per month, which the union slams as a pittance compared with the exorbitant bonuses bosses reward themselves. The union is demanding pay increases of 60 to 100 percent to bring their pay to a living wage in a country beset with severe wealth inequality.
“The pay that we are asking for is not high. It is normal and reasonable,” said NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka. “The strike will carry on indefinitely until our demands are met,” Seshoka added.
Union members are rejecting what they charge is a culture of dangerous conditions and poverty wages in South Africa’s gold mines, dating back to apartheid-era exploitation and abuse of black labor, with companies continuing to dodge real accountability and reparations for their role in enforcing, and profiting from, this system of race-based oppression.
“The union is aware of the devastating impact industrial action would have on the economy which is largely a white man’s economy with no benefits for poor black mineworkers,” NUM officials declared in a statement.
Last year, scores of striking miners were massacred by South African security forces in their biggest show of force since the apartheid era. Despite the killings, these workers stayed on strike, winning key demands and playing a role in inspiring a surge of labor organizing and protest in South Africa’s notoriously dangerous mines and across industries.
The miner’s strike comes as work stoppages rock the car manufacturing and construction sectors.
The original article can be found on Common Dreams.
Coverage from the Associated Press:
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A strike by tens of thousands of South African gold miners severely affected production in the struggling industry on Wednesday. There were no reports of violence and two mining companies reached a settlement with their workers.
The strike started Tuesday evening. The National Union of Mineworkers, which says it represents more than 80,000 miners in the gold sector, initially said it was demanding wage increases of up to 60 percent, about 10 times the offer that was made by gold mining companies.
The Chamber of Mines, which represents industry employers, said gold producers Pan African Resources and Village Main Reef had reached agreement with union leaders at two mines for wage increases of up to 8 percent.
“That the producers and the unions can find one another in the interests of preserving these operations indicates our mutual desire to achieve an affordable and sustainable settlement,” Elize Strydom, the chamber’s chief negotiator, said in a statement.
Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, said the two settlements would not have an impact on protests at other mines.
“We just said we would be willing to ease our demands, but it must be a double-digit increase that is worth the workers’ while,” the South African Press Association quoted Seshoka as saying.
Another gold-mining operation, Harmony, said the strike had heavily affected most of its operations but that it continued to engage with unions to reach a settlement.
“We are encouraged by the responsible and peaceful conduct of employees engaged in the strike, and urge all parties to uphold the law and all agreements,” said Graham Briggs, Harmony’s chief executive officer.
President Jacob Zuma has urged both sides to reach agreements. South Africa’s mining industry has been hit by rising costs, diminishing production and labor unrest in recent years.
Some 46 people were killed during a six-week period of labor unrest over wages at Lonmin’s platinum mine last year in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. In one incident, police fired into striking miners near the Marikana mine on Aug. 16, killing 34 people and prompting an official inquiry that is still underway.
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