Strike takes toll on health of miners

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IOL pic jun13 mine strike Reuters Striking miners chant slogans as they march in the Nkaneng township, outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, on May 13, 2014. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - About 3 000 Lonmin mineworkers have defaulted on their chronic treatment for diabetes, hypertension and antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs amid the five-month strike led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

“Not enough people are coming for treatment and we now have the number as high as 3 000. We are doing our utmost best to take the treatment to them and we are sending messages for people to come and get their treatment,” Lerato Molebatsi, Lonmin’s spokeswoman, said yesterday.

National health spokesman Joe Maila said the companies had to find a way to work with the Health Ministry in the North West to find alternative ways to distribute the medication. “We are open to assist where we can. They [Lonmin] can come to us to… establish alternative distribution channels. It is dangerous for people to default on their treatment because they may develop a resistance to the drugs.”

Mpumi Sithole, the spokeswoman for Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), said there were a number of employees who had defaulted on their chronic treatment at its health facilities. This changed when the company started an initiative including a radio campaign to encourage them to take their treatment.

“After that initiative we have seen a decrease in the number of employees not taking their chronic medication,” Sithole said.

Johan Theron, Impala Platinum’s spokesman, said the company had given people medicine for longer periods of time, arranged that they could get assistance from state facilities and also used third-party service providers to contact people who had defaulted.

Ben Magara, the chief executive of Lonmin, previously warned that 1 000 Amcu members were neglecting their ARV treatment in a written response to Amcu’s petition to the company in April.

Amcu, which is leading 70 000 members in the longest wage strike in the country’s history for a R12 500 basic wage for the lowest-paid underground employees, agreed in principle to sign the employers’ final settlement offer.

The final settlement offer included a R1 000 increase in the first year on the current basic wage of between R4 500 and R6 000, and R950 in the second and third year for lowest-paid underground workers.

Strike-hit platinum producers held individual meetings with Amcu this week after its formal response included new demands that risked to derail the signing of the agreement.

Impala is scheduled to meet Amcu today, while both Amplats and Lonmin met with the union yesterday.

Amcu’s fresh demands include a R3 000 back-to-work bonus, that companies increase wages by R1 000 annually in three years instead of five years, and for producers to withdraw criminal charges against Amcu members.

The union is also demanding that the accommodation allowance escalate by the consumer price index, and for pension and other allowances to be paid on the new basic wage.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, producers said Amcu had tabled new terms that were ridiculous and unaffordable. The new demands were likely to add an estimated R1 billion to their wage bill, the firms said.

Evans Ramokga, an Amplats leader and Amcu activist, said: “The ball is in the employers’ court. If they say yes to our response, we will sign the final settlement offer, and the strike will end.”

Ramokga denied that there were new demands. “We don’t know where the R3 000 back-to-work bonus comes from.

“We do not have new demands. We want management to offer the R1 000 increase in three years, not in five years. We also want the mining houses to withdraw criminal charges against members, and our back pay in full.”

Employers have lost R23.2bn in revenue since the start of the strike on January 23, while workers have forfeited about R10.3bn in wages. - Business Report



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