Employers flock to courts to halt strikes

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A truck burns on the M1 northbound before the Golden Highway near Naturena in Gauteng after being set alight last night. Truck drivers are demanding higher wages. Photo: Leon Nicholas.

Transport operators and mining firms that are facing unprotected strikes and resultant attacks are cracking down on the mayhem by obtaining court interdicts and threatening to dismiss employees who refuse to work.

Protests by striking drivers spread from Johannesburg to other provinces as trucks were torched and traffic was blocked while employers and unions met to end the strike.

The Road Freight Employers’ Association will be back in the Labour Court on Friday to have the strike declared illegal.

Traffic on the N1 between Johannesburg and Pretoria was disrupted as trucks were set alight, according to the Road Freight Association (RFA) website. A bulk tanker was burned and a car was petrol-bombed in Cape Town.

Protesters caused “chaos” in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, and others were demonstrating in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, according to the RFA.

In the mining sector, the Chamber of Mines said late yesterday that it was open to discussing adjustments to wage agreements in the coal and gold sectors in a bid to end the spread of wildcat strikes.

 

Chamber chief executive Bheki Sibiya said the only option companies had was to seek relief from the courts, but he denied mining firms were working together to seek interdicts.

“I am not aware that mining companies have co-ordinated [to seek] help from the courts. Gold producers may have a similar stance because they are united through the gold council, which interacts regularly,” he said.

However, Michael Bagraim, a labour law expert and president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said it was an exercise in futility, saying an interdict was a blunt instrument to deal with mass hysteria.

He said it looked like the companies were acting in concert because they had responded simultaneously and their applications were similar in language.

On Tuesday and yesterday, Anglo American Platinum and Gold One International were granted interdicts against strikes at their operations.

Gold Fields applied to the North Gauteng High Court yesterday for an eviction order against striking miners at its Kloof Driefontein Complex (KDC) West mine in Carletonville. The mining house ordered the workers to leave its hostels yesterday, but they refused to depart.

Gold Fields already has two interdicts against striking workers at KDC West, where 15 000 employees are on strike, and Beatrix in the Free State, with 9 000 striking workers.

“It has been three weeks now, we have tried everything to get people to work. The hostels have become a place of committing violence and criminal activities and it will be good to get eviction orders,” spokesman Sven Lunsche said.

Last week, Dunlop Industrial in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, dismissed 245 out of the 300 workers who had been on strike over wages for six weeks. It accused them of intimidation and violence.

Anglo American Platinum said that employees at its Union mine in Limpopo had reported for work on Tuesday but refused to go underground. It had obtained an interdict against the employees and the industrial action had been declared illegal. Employees had been duly informed to return to work. Its shares closed 3.2 percent down at R395 yesterday.

Gold One said that as of Tuesday, it had obtained an interim interdict which declared the industrial action that began on Monday on the West Rand to be unprotected and unlawful.

Employees were further interdicted from taking part in the strike as it was a contravention of a two-year agreement signed in July. Its stock climbed 1.4 percent to R3.65.

 

Kumba Iron Ore, a unit of Anglo American, said about 300 employees at its Sishen mine in the Northern Cape had embarked on a strike yesterday. Kumba’s stock closed 4.8 percent lower at R477.91.

Harmony Gold said employees had started an unprotected strike yesterday at the Kusasalethu mine on the border of Gauteng and North West

. Harmony Gold shares closed 2.8 percent lower at R67.10.


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