SUSAN Shabangu, the Mineral Resources Minister, blamed Lonmin management yesterday for failing to prevent Tuesday’s sudden work stoppage at its Marikana mine, saying the company had to take responsibility for its labour relations.
Shabangu was speaking at the official opening of the R1 billion expansion of BHP Billiton’s Metalloys manganese smelter in Meyerton, Johannesburg, which is expected to boost beneficiation.
Asked about the latest tensions between rival unions at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, Shabangu said if companies were going to be “bullied”, she would ask what their responsibility was in resolving labour challenges. “We agreed to bring peace and normalise the mining industry,” she said.
“If chief executives are going to sit and be paralysed and expect that something will come from heaven, I will ask: what is their responsibility?
“We all agreed to follow the Labour Relations Act. Every stakeholder has got to talk to its constituency.
“If Amcu (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) withdraws from the peace framework, employers must look at the framework and do the right thing.”
Meanwhile, mineworkers at Lonmin returned to work yesterday, ending the one-day wildcat strike.
“The guys have gone back to work,” Gideon du Plessis, the deputy general secretary of trade union Solidarity, said.
Solidarity represents skilled workers and was not part of the strike that coincided with a site visit by the media.
Lonmin management confirmed yesterday that workers across its mining operations had returned to work.
“The night shift proceeded as usual and all our operations are back to normal,” Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said.
Production ground to a halt when about 6 000 employees downed tools on Tuesday.
The tension was apparently sparked by Amcu’s demand for the closure of the offices of the rival National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Amcu members said that the NUM was no longer the majority union.
More than 40 people were killed in violent clashes at the Marikana mine last year and the violence rocked the mining industry.
In an effort to bring stability back to the mining sector, union leaders and company bosses agreed on a framework for peace last week. In the framework they committed to, among others, comply with safety laws, promote freedom of association and prohibit the carrying of dangerous weapons.– Dineo Faku Additional reporting by Reuters