NUM calls for end to sit-in and hostage protests at Gold One

Gold One has now engaged NUM, culminating in a mass-meeting on Thursday. File

Gold One has now engaged NUM, culminating in a mass-meeting on Thursday. File

Published Jan 12, 2024


THE National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) yesterday advised mineworkers at Gold One, whose management insists that there will be no reversal to the mass employee dismissals at its South African operations, to end violent underground hostage and sit-in demonstrations and to respect legal processes.

In October and December, mineworkers at Gold One refused to return to the surface after their underground shifts ended as they protested the miner’s refusal to acknowledge the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) as a labour union at the mine.

The situation escalated when the sit-in turned into a violent hostage situation, a situation that threatened the well-being of other employees under other labour unions that were not part of the hostage protests and sit-ins.

In December, workers who refused to participate were threatened and assaulted, reports show, prompting Gold One to dismiss employees who were spearheading the attacks.

Ziyaad Hassam, the head of legal at Gold One, told Business Report that there was no going back on the dismissal of employees already fired from the company for participating in the violent sit-in and hostage protests.

“The dismissals will not be overturned unless its in a legal way. If any employee who is dismissed is not satisfied and if they lodge an internal appeal or if they take it to the CCMA,” Hassam said by phone.

The sit-in protests at Gold One had also resulted in heavy losses for the company owing to disruption to production. Hassam said the company had “lost 8 days of production” during the latest stand-off with violent employees protesting underground while the mine also had to “shut down a week early” in December.

“In terms of losses to production we estimate losses in the region of R12 million to R15 million,” he said.

The company had now engaged NUM, culminating in a mass-meeting yesterday. The company would also issue communication directly to all affected employees calling on them to respect legal processes under internal mechanisms and through external commissions such as the CCMA.

NUM regional organiser Victor Ngwane acknowledged the engagements with the company and with Gold One employees. Ngwane revealed to Business Report that NUM had received a call from Gold One management on Wednesday requesting an urgent meeting.

On arriving there, NUM representatives were told that the Gold One executive committee had “decided to cancel the shift for the day because of threats that workers wanted to do a sit-in” while the company also raised concerns that “this was no longer sustainable” for operations.

During the previous sit-in protests and hostage situations, NUM in its representation of workers said its members who were underground were not involved. Ngwane said NUM successfully argued that its members affected by the sit-in and hostage situations underground “had to be paid and they were being paid” and admitted that the sit-ins were causing instability to the operations of the company.

“We were giving feed-back to the members; we addressed to the members the hazards and dangers of the sit-ins and what it causes to the general community at large and explaining that people will lose jobs and the community at large will suffer with no employment,” he said.

NUM had also explained during the mass meeting yesterday that the grievances of the employees such as the acknowledgement of Amcu and the dismissal of the employees were now being addressed through proper legal channels.

He said NUM had explained to the employees the “disciplinary processes”, including the process of appeal and the commissions through the CCMA, hence there was no longer any need to continue with the sit-ins.

“These threats are just to threaten the company or to force the company to say that no one must go to disciplinary hearings. The response was that the majority understood the risk. Majority of them have resurfaced. As NUM, our policy is that any hostage is a criminal act,” said Ngwane.

NUM was, however, unhappy with the dismissal of employees at Gold One and Ngwane said the union was respecting the processes, adding that he was hopeful that the majority of the dismissed employees would be back at work as they were not supposed to have been dismissed in the first place.

Hassam said Gold One would not condone “violent protest action that threatened the company as well as fellow employees” in terms of their health and safety.

“We have always had an open door to communication with workers’ unions through which any employee issues are raised. The initial issue was the recognition of Amcu as a union and that process is under way. The second time the grievance was in connection to employees who were dismissed following the first sit-in,” he said.