An illegal strike involving about 12 000 workers at Gold Fields’ Kloof Driefontein Complex (KDC) west of Johannesburg is expected to end this week as management and unions agreed to deal with employees’ grievances.
Management was granted an urgent interdict on Friday morning to end the illegal strike at the east section of the KDC mine, however, it would decide this week whether to act on it, Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche said on Friday.
“This issue is an intra-National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch problem. Members want the branch leadership to be removed, and national leadership is trying to get its members to go back to work. We are trying to facilitate the talks,” he said.
There was no underground mining at the weekend and the next underground shift was due to start today. Employees would not be paid during the illegal strike, Lunsche added.
The swift action by management and labour had prevented a spread of an illegal strike similar to that at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg where 44 people, including two police officers, were killed three weeks ago.
Employees had been on strike since Wednesday last week because Gold Fields had been deducting money from workers’ salaries for a compulsory funeral cover benefit that not all of them wanted, NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said on Friday.
He said the strike was expected to end as management had agreed to stop making the deductions, while NUM general secretary Frans Baleni had visited the mine to hear whether there were other issues that needed to be addressed.
Seshoka said the employees were contributing R70 towards the extended funeral cover for 10 family members.
“We are saying it [funeral cover benefit] must not be imposed, you can’t deduct [from] someone’s salary without their consent and employees had been objecting to it for some time now,” he said. However, Lunsche said the company had agreed to stop making the deductions on Thursday, and the issue remained the leadership issue at branch level.
There are 26 685 workers at KDC and it produced 1.1 million ounces of gold last year. Gold Fields said it had lost production of two night shifts and two day shifts. The east section produced 1 660 ounces a day.
Gold Fields fell 2.9 percent to R101 on the JSE on Friday.
“Based on informal feedback from employees, the strike appears to be related mainly to disagreements within organised labour and related structures on the mine, although we cannot confirm this,” Peter Turner, the executive vice-president and head of the company’s South Africa region, said on Friday.
Gold Fields issued a notice to employees at its South Deep mine explaining its operating model to improve productivity. The “worst case” scenario would see it dismiss 2 384 underground employees, chief executive Nick Holland was reported to have said last month. South Deep, which will produce 700 000 ounces of gold annually from the end of 2015, has proposed to change the shift system by introducing a 12-hour shift system with four days on and four days off.
Meanwhile, at platinum producer Lonmin, attendance dropped to an average of 5.7 percent on Friday, the company said. Talks on a peace accord at the company would resume today. However, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said it had been excluded from a plenary session of the talks on Thursday.
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said centralising the bargaining process in the platinum sector would not work until poverty and living conditions were addressed.
“If you are saying the bargaining structure will be centralised, you have to address fundamental issues affecting the workers,” he said.
Last week platinum mining members of the Chamber of Mines said it was speeding up the process of establishing a centralised bargaining process instead of negotiating with individual unions.