The strike by mine workers affiliated to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which has entered its seventeenth week, looks set to continue amid reports that the employers have resorted to communicating directly with workers after talks with the worker organisation reached a stalemate.
The Lonmin company, through its chief executive officer, Mr Ben Magara, revealed that they were still in the process of reviewing all their legal options in trying to break this impasse. Speaking to reporters, Mr Magara added that there was nothing legally wrong with the approach the company had taken to send text messages to individual workers since the AMCU representives in the negotiations had refused to budge from their original requirements.
The strike, which started on January 23, has workers demanding a starting salary of R12 500 for underground miners. This means that the wages for entry level underground workers will have more than doubled by the year 2017. This will equate to an increase of over 30% in the first year and CEO Magara argues that this is not affordable nor is it sustainable. They are, on their side, offering an annual increase of 10% which, they argue, will reach the target of having basic salaries of R12 500.
According to the Lonmin Chief Executive Officer, sending text messages to individual workers was working positively and a number of workers were reporting for duty. That is, until the killings started. According to the police, four people have died as a direct result of the strike. Two mineworkers have died, one from stab wounds while the other burnt inside a shack. The other two are a couple that was found dead in their home. Minor unions and individual workers working in the Rusternburg area have reported perpetual intimidation throughout the strike. Police, who have shown an increased presence in the mining area, have indicated that they were aware of the perpetrators of the killings, adding that they had become aware of a hit list of those miners who had agreed to go back to work.
Magara, on the other hand hinted that the company was still willing to advance with negotiations despite the fact that talks with AMCU had collapsed. He insinuated that the company was in talks, albeit informal, with the union president, Joseph Mathunjwa at the weekend. Mr Ben Magara warned that restructuring and the loss of jobs was inevitable since the company had been burning money at the rate of R60 million per month since the strike began on the 23rd of January this year.