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Not backing down: More than 500 workers at Joburg mine remain underground since Sunday

Aerial photo of a mine

More than 500 workers at Gold One Mine’s Modder East shaft in Springs, east of Johannesburg are stuck underground, with contrasting reasons given for their situation. File Picture: Photo: Gold One website

Published Oct 25, 2023


Labour unions, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) continue to trade accusations as more than 500 mineworkers remain underground at Gold One Mine’s Modder East shaft in Springs, east of Johannesburg.

Both unions claim the workers underground are its members, giving varied reasons for the mineworkers not returning to the surface at the end of their shift.

The workers went underground to work on Sunday, and did not come to the surface on Monday morning at the end of their shift.

Amcu insists that none of the more than 500 workers would come to the surface until Gold One recognises Amcu as the majority union in the workplace.

Speaking to journalists at the Springs mine, Amcu’s regional organiser Jeffrey Chauke said the workers underground were staging a sit-in, demanding that Amcu be given recognition and organisational rights.

Amcu claims it has surpassed the NUM in terms of members at the mine, and must be recognised as such.

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of Amcu. File Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)

“This company employs over 1,800 employees. Sometime around March, 1,200 of those employees joined Amcu and we came here and submitted those forms to the employer. In that meeting, it was established that if the membership we have is correct, we are now the majority in this company,” Chauke said.

“But we had to follow all the processes that the company requested us to follow at the time. They said we should give them a month to verify the membership we had submitted,” he said.

“In that month, when they were verifying those 1,200 (members), we submitted an additional 400, to make it 1,600 and sometime around April and May, when they were supposed to give us feedback, they told us that they are unable to recognise us because they have signed a close-shop agreement with NUM.”

On the other hand, acting NUM regional secretary, Mlulameli Mweli, insisted that his union remained the representative of majority of workers.

According to NUM, the more than 500 workers underground are being held hostage by Amcu.

Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at the union rally in Marikana near Rustenburg, North West. File Photo: Molaole Montsho

“We don’t even know why the employer is even recognising Amcu, or getting them in because as far as we know, Amcu is not recognised at Gold One,” Mweli said.

“They do not have membership as yet. All we are expecting is that NUM and management must come up with solutions as to how do we rescue these people underground.”

On Tuesday, IOL reported that the Minerals Council South Africa said it was deeply concerned about the health and safety of the more than 500 workers underground at the mine in Gauteng.

The situation was not resolved by Wednesday morning, with concerns mounting for the miners trapped underground.