3 October 2012

South Africa: Goldfields Wants Strikers Evicted

Photo: Anglogold Ashanti/MediaClub SA
Drilling underground: Operations at the company's mines West Wits, Kopanang in Carletonville, and the Vaal River regions, near Orkney, came to a standstill

Johannesburg — An eviction order is being sought to remove striking Gold Fields mine workers from their hostels at KDC West Mine in Carletonville, the mining company said on Wednesday.

"We asked miners to vacate the hostels [on Tuesday]. They did not obey that order," said Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche, as three-week old strikes continued at both the company's KDC West Mine and Beatrix mine.

He said after the workers' refusal, the company then submitted an urgent application to the Pretoria High Court which would compel the KDC West-based miners to vacate the hostels.

By Wednesday morning, the application was still to be processed by the court.

Also on Wednesday, eight striking miners from KDC West mine were expected to appear in the Carletonville Magistrate's Court.

Police spokesman Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini said they were arrested on Tuesday on charges of public violence and intimidation.

Dlamini said the alleged crimes took place when the mineworkers were "demonstrating unlawfully".

Lunsche said Gold Fields hoped the eviction order would be granted as "the hostels had become a hot-bed of violence and we felt there was an immediate threat of danger to hostels and mine property".

If the 5000 miners out of the 13,000 strong workforce who lived in hostels were evicted, the company would offer them transport to go back home.

Lunsche said incidents of violence, such as petrol bombs being thrown at cars and acts of intimidation, were ongoing but no serious injuries had been reported.

Gold Fields estimated it was only "a small core" of approximately 10 percent of its workers who were actively inciting the strike action and intimidating others to prevent them from working.

"The majority are peace-loving and they want to go back to work."

He said about 85 percent of the mine's workers remained on strike.

Essential services were still proceeding. This included the pumping of water to avoid acid mine drainage, the maintenance of mine shafts which became more dangerous the longer they were unused, medical and administrative tasks, and some work by contractors.

Lunsche said the strikers appeared to have "no concrete demands" and that management could not negotiate with "rabble-rousers" who were creating "anarchy".

He said three months ago a 10 percent increase had been agreed upon after a collective bargaining process with unions.

"We have been paying above inflation. It's a tough working environment but a good one."

Looking ahead, the mine management were "obviously hoping they [the strikers] are going to go back to work. It is looking increasingly unlikely".

Lunsche said for now, the company "can sit this out".

He said on the first day of the strike, the company had obtained a court interdict that would allow for the dismissal of all strikers.

Lunsche said according to the process, three warnings would have to be issued, before dismissals could take place.

Gold Fields has already issued two of these.

He said the company would decide when it "believed it was the right time" to possibly issue the final warning.

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