“Things are under control despite the concerns and high tensions,” Happy Nkhoma, a Lonmin spokesman, said by phone yesterday. The company, which didn’t specify how many workers returned to the job yesterday, expects attendance to rise in coming days, he said.
Lonmin reopened its mines after failing to reach a wage deal with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. The labor group, the largest representative of workers at the world’s three biggest platinum producers, downed tools on Jan. 23, starting the country’s longest and costliest mining strike.
Police yesterday promised to crack down on anyone intimidating workers trying to return to work. “We know their names and we are going for them,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said in a briefing broadcast on eNCA news channel.
Some workers were too scared to go to work, said Sydwell Dokolwana, a regional secretary for rival labor group, the National Union of Mineworkers. “The police are there, but you can’t move from your house to the place where the buses will pick you up,” Dokolwana said yesterday by phone. “There are people singing and carrying weapons; they are there on every street pulling you off and forcing you to join them.”
The AMCU wants basic monthly pay, without benefits, to be more than doubled for entry-level underground employees to 12,500 rand ($1,210) by 2017, while producers are including cash allowances in that figure.
Workers wishing to report for duty should be allowed to do so, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said by phone. The union will maintain its demand for a base salary of 12,500 rand, he said on SAfm. “For the last 20 years the workers haven’t seen fruits of democracy, so now is the time.”
He addressed striking miners near Lonmin’s Marikana operations yesterday, less than two years after 34 protesters demonstrating against working conditions and pay were killed by police in a single day.
Impala Platinum (IMP) Holdings Ltd. mines impacted by the strike remain closed, while attendance figures at affected Anglo American Platinum (AMS) Ltd. operations are slowly increasing, spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andre Janse van Vuuren in Johannesburg at firstname.lastname@example.org