Platinum producers slam acts of violence as tensions mount in platinum belt

Johannesbug-S.A. (May 12)   Platinum producers on Monday condemned acts of violence against returning workers, pleading with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to issue a public statement demanding their members respect the rights of those wanting to work.

Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin had been engaging workers directly, encouraging them to end the 16-week strike and report for duty, sidelining AMCU by offering employees the chance of accepting the revised wage offer individually.

The companies now demanded AMCU members to respect the rights of those who choose to work and not harm employees returning to work as one confirmed strike-related death of a Lonmin employee was confirmed on Monday, with two more yet-to-be-confirmed fatalities being reported by the National Union of Mineworkers.

Further, at least 20 acts of assault had been reported over the last two days and a number of “serious incidents” of intimidation against employees and bus operators, providing transport to mining company employees, had also been reported.

CEOs Chris Griffith, Terence Goodlace and Ben Magara called on AMCU to exercise “strong and responsible leadership” and “direct and discipline” its members, following an earlier statement by the union, stating that, should the platinum producers “continue engaging workers directly, this could lead to something else”. The trio viewed this statement as an acceptance of violence and intimidation.

“We recognise the right to strike as a fundamental right of employees, a right which has been respected throughout the dispute. But, we have a responsibility to communicate directly with our employees. We have heard them. Our employees wish to return to work, but have expressed a fear of continued intimidation and violence. We call on AMCU to recognise and uphold the rights of those who wish to work without fear of intimidation or violence," the CEOs said in a joint statement.

Lonmin had anticipated a restart at its business after many of its 38 000 workers indicated their intention to return, but with operations still idled in the wake of renewed violence in the region, the company would fall back on its pipeline stocks, which were not depleted as refineries had been shut and furnaces idled to save power and costs.

The company earlier stated that on the back of the drawn-out dispute, job losses were now inevitable.