Dineo Faku

THE two-week-long strike at Exxaro Resources collieries, which disrupted fuel supplies to an already stretched Eskom, ended at the weekend.

Workers are expected to return to work today after a deal was reached between management and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

In terms of the agreement, each employee will be paid a minimum of R2 800 under Exxaro’s first-quarter short-term incentive for the year.

“The focus at the operations now will be to restart as soon as possible after employees have returned to their duties and undergone safety and training interventions,” Retha Piater, Exxaro’s human resources executive, said on Saturday.

About 3 500 workers downed tools at five coal mines and Exxaro’s reductants operation over the non-payment of performance bonuses.

The company had said previously that it had not paid the bonuses because performance targets, which would have entitled the workers to an incentive payment last year, had not been achieved.

The strike hit the Matla and Arnot mines in Mpumalanga on March 5 and spread to Grootegeluk, Leeuwpan and Inyanda and the reductants operation within days. The company said a “no work, no pay” principle applied during the strike.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka confirmed that workers would return to work today.

Although the NUM did not initiate the unprotected strikes, its members were the ones who went on strike. Earlier talks between Exxaro and the NUM had failed, with employees rejecting Exxaro’s eight-point proposal.

The original proposal included the payment of the first-quarter incentive of 2 percent of annual salary, equating to a minimum payout of about R2 000 for each employee of Exxaro Coal and Exxaro Reductants.

The proposal would have been subject to striking employees returning to their duties.

In a bid to resolve the strike, Exxaro obtained an urgent high court interdict for the striking employees to return to work.

Eskom said it had 49 days of stockpiles across its system and reported that it had a buffer of 480 megawatts between available capacity and peak demand. – Additional reporting by Sapa