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No guarantees of reinstatement were given to the 9 000-strong Karee mine workforce fired by Lonmin on Tuesday as it began a reselection process yesterday.
The third-largest platinum producer would not reveal the criteria used for the selection of the workers. It said it was giving others who had not been part of its workforce an opportunity for employment.
“We started the process of hiring today. Employees who were dismissed are able to reapply for jobs as well as others previously not employed by Lonmin,” company spokeswoman Tanya Chikanza said. “Re-employment is not guaranteed for the dismissed.”
Lonmin was granted a court interdict on Friday ordering all employees at the Karee section of its Marikana operation to return to work, but staff ignored the ruling.
Lonmin on Tuesday dismissed the workers for participating in an unprotected strike starting on Wednesday
last week over internal issues concerning the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Workers refused to go to work after the disgruntled NUM branch leadership at the operation was dissolved. Both the secretary and chairman were suspended for failing to allow elections after the end of their three-year term.
Mxhasi Sithethi, the regional co-ordinator for NUM in Rustenburg, confirmed that the reselection process was under way yesterday. This was after NUM regional leadership met with the company’s management yesterday afternoon.
Mawethu Steven, the suspended chairman at the Karee branch, denied responsibility for the dismissal of workers, saying:
“I got a letter of suspension because of misconduct, I don’t know why.
“I will now attend a disciplinary hearing in 14 days’ time. I did not force the workers to stay away from work.”
Lesiba Seshoka, the NUM’s national spokesman, said: “It can’t be right to have Lonmin retrench workers when the country is faced with the mammoth task of job creation.”
Seshoka said it would be impossible for Lonmin to replace up to 80 percent of its staff and expect full-scale production as new recruits had to be trained. He hoped Lonmin would be able to hire all 9 000 dismissed workers. “We will make sure that the workers are reinstated,” he said. “As to how we will do it, we will cross the bridge when we come to it.”
The Karee operation, which produced 17 000 tons of ore a day, has not been producing since last week Tuesday.
Like its competitors, Lonmin has been challenged by the heavy beating platinum prices took following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March. The metal declined from $1 784 (R12 500) an ounce to a low of $1 692 in March.
The shares rose 1.25 percent to R171.43 yesterday.