File image: Reuters

Hundreds of workers at the Syferfontein Magnesite mine in Folovhodwe, Limpopo, have downed tools over what they called “unreasonableness” concerning salaries.

Workers started picketing outside the mine’s main plant in a village near Musina, demanding better salaries.

National Democratic Forest and Energy Workers' Union shop steward Jonas Tshiboho claimed the miners were being paid less than farmworkers and taxi drivers.

Their employer, the Syferfontein Group, was unwilling to pay salaries as prescribed to the mining and energy workers' industry, he claimed.

“We negotiated for the pay hikes. It is our belief that what we are offered is even less as compared to what farmworkers are getting. We then had no option but to engage in industrial action,” said Tshiboho.

Syferfontein Group manager Dane Cresswell said he would not comment on the matter.

The union rejected a 6.5 percent increase offer by the employer and served the mine with notice of its intention to strike last week. This was after talks broke down at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

“We will not go back to work until the employer offers us what we want. There is no work taking place in the mine today 1/8Tuesday 3/8,” Tshiboho said.

The union wanted to “send a strong message” to the company that such salaries would no longer be acceptable to workers. He said the lowest-paid workers got R1500 a month, which the union considered unacceptable and unjust.

The union also wanted labour department inspectors to look at salary compliance for workers.

The company mines magnesite mineral near Tshipise village, south-east of Musina. Magnesite is used to make tiles, and in the process of making steel. - Sapa