NATIONAL Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni has warned that while illegal strike action in the platinum belt has won wage increases for workers, it is leading to the loss of thousands of jobs.
Mr Baleni said that since February, close to 10,000 actual and potential jobs had been lost in the sector. This includes: 1,200 at Lonmin, which will next month close its K3 shaft; 2,500 people at Impala Platinum, who were not rehired following the strike earlier this year; and 2,300 at Aquarius. In addition, Anglo American Platinum has indicated that it intends to retrench 2,000 workers and Lonmin has put a new development on hold, which would have led to the creation of 3,000 new jobs.
Mr Baleni also repeated the warning expressed by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi yesterday that awarding wage increases as a result of illegal and unprocedural strike action would encourage "copycat" action. He said the NUM had already received indications that workers at Harmony, AngloGold Ashanti and coal contractors in the Highveld region were contemplating strike action.
This is in addition to workers at Anglo Platinum and Gold Fields KDC mine Carletonville, which are presently engaged in illegal strikes, demanding large increases.
"It is a bad precedent that an unprotected action which was accompanied by violence and intimidation receives concessions.... It will encourage members to (engage) in copycat action and not to follow the normal bargaining process."
The NUM, which held a press briefing this morning, was also at pains to point out that the gains for most workers in the Lonmin strike were not as impressive as has been made out. Wage increases ranged between 11% and 22%. Since this also included the increase of between 8% and 9% that would have come into effect on October 1, additional gains were not that large, it said.