Lonmin, unions sign peace accord

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lonmin warning strikers

THE STAR

Striking Lonmin mineworkers marched to Lonmin's Karee shaft in Marikana outside Rustenberg in North West to demand the closure of the shaft. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Parties at the Marikana talks on Wednesday night agreed on a process agreement laying down the framework for the future discussion of wages.

Only the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) indicated it was not signing the agreement. The union didn’t state its reasons.

Amcu spokesman Jimmy Gama was not available to confirm this on Wednesday night as his cellphone was on voicemail.

The various negotiators included Lonmin’s management, various trade unions, religious leaders, the Department of Labour, the CCMA and 10 worker representatives.

The latter were expected to report back to their constituencies, primarily the strikers, from Thursday. At the time of publication, the parties were poised to sign the draft agreement.

Trade union Solidarity representative Gideon du Plessis said the agreement provided for the workers to return to work on Monday, and that the talks – including the participation of all the unions, Amcu among them – would start in “a structured manner” soon after that.

The agreement bars the Lonmin employees from carrying “dangerous weapons”.

Also, Lonmin management had added a “sweetener”, which would be that the strikers would get five days’ pay for the period they were on strike.

Du Plessis said a chief negotiator of the strikers had turned out not to be a Lonmin employee, but an employee of one of the contractors and a representative of those striking workers employed by the contractor. This was part of the reason the strike had gone on for so long.

Earlier, progress was slow as the parties seemed to be distracted by wage demands soon after the talks started.

Most parties seemed to be in agreement that signing the accord is the first step forward.

“The idea is that parties are signing up to behave within the rule of law,” said Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey.

“They agree to cease violence, stop intimidation and act within the law of South Africa.”

Amcu and a group of worker representatives were allegedly blocking the accord earlier yesterday, wanting to discuss wages before peace – the same stumbling block that halted talks earlier this week.

At protests in Marikana on Wednesday, worker representative Xolani Nzuza told the miners: “We don’t want to hear anything about a peace accord. We want R12 500 and the closing down of that shaft.”

When asked if he was in support of the peace accord, Gama said: “What peace accord? The peace accord exists when there is someone fighting somebody. Who is fighting who?”

Lonmin insisted it would not move forward without an agreement on safety and security. Only once the peace accord was signed was it willing to progress to the process agreement, which will lay down the framework for the future discussion of wages.

“Part of that [the process agreement] is getting workers back to work so that we can get the operation going again and balance the books,” said Vey.

“The operation cannot be left standing indefinitely. It needs to earn money to stay sustainable.”

Solidarity’s Du Plessis said Amcu was playing “a very destructive role”. Though the union’s members were not part of the strike, they were directly affected by the loss of production at the Marikana mine.

He said Amcu had voiced its dissatisfaction with the venue of the talks, wanting them to be in Joburg instead of Rustenburg.

National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni said: “[Amcu] haven’t been coming with any solutions.”

But Gama blamed “the ones who put the peace accord first” over workers’ demands for the stalled talks.

The Star with additional reporting by Sapa


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