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Rustenburg - Wage increases reached outside of a bargaining agreement between workers and Impala Platinum set a precedent for Marikana miners, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
“It raised an expectation,” Erick Gcilitshana testified in Rustenburg.
Gcilitshana was the first witness to be called by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). He is the union's health and safety national secretary.
He was also the chief negotiator during the mineworkers' strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, where 34 workers were killed in August.
He testified that a wage increase given to miners at Impala Platinum in April 2012 following a strike was achieved outside a bargaining agreement. This created expectations among workers at Lonmin mines that this avenue would also be available to them.
When Gcilitshana was asked by advocate Karel Tip, for the NUM, if he meant workers might also consider an unprotected strike, he answered: “Yes, that's correct”.
He was also asked, as the chief negotiator, about strikes at Lonmin's Karee mine in the North West.
On July 21, workers marched to Karee's head office. Gcilitshana
said he became aware of the strike only later.
Commission head Ian Farlam asked when he was informed of this strike.
“It was only a few days after the march.”
He confirmed Lonmin granted various increases to rock drill operators on July 23, without consulting the NUM.
Tip asked what the union's response was to this.
“As NUM we were not happy with the way the company did it. We believe we should have been involved.”
He said the union was not against workers receiving more money, but with the process followed.
The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at the mine. Thirty-four striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine on August 16.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death. - Sapa