AngloGold Ashanti began dismissing 12,000 workers today, 25 October, becoming the latest mining company to join the rush to dismiss striking workers with the misguided belief that such a move will bring the situation under control.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is concerned the dismissals by AngloGold have the potential to escalate into a violent and confrontational situation. NUM is opposed to the dismissals of the striking mineworkers and believes that such a move will work against all efforts to normalize the situation and get the mineworkers back to work.
The dismissals come on the same day that a deal is to be signed between labour and gold companies, AngloGold, Harmony and Gold Fields at the Chamber of Mines, which hopes to end the strikes in the gold sector.
The NUM has consistently argued that dismissals should be a measure of last resort and has been against similar actions taken by Anglo Platinum and other mining companies. These actions ignore efforts that are in motion to normalize the situation.
One such act is the Social Pact between the Presidency, mining companies and labour signed a week earlier. The social pact seeks to address the underlying multiple causes of the unrest which include the appalling levels of pay and dreadful working conditions in the industry and is meant to promote stability and address socio economic issues in mining areas.
Unlike the platinum industry, the gold sector is part of an established centralized collective bargaining and negotiations are continuing with the Chamber of Mines in efforts to address both the immediate and long term causes of the unrest in the mining industry.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) made strong statements against the dismissals, calling for the immediate reinstatement of workers. COSATU is mobilizing solidarity protests in support of mineworkers’ demands in the coming weeks.
IndustriALL Global Union is against these dismissals and reiterates its earlier call to the mining companies in South Africa to address what COSATU describes as the underlying causes of the escalating unrest. IndustriALL supports the NUM and COSATU in calling for another commission that will investigate the underlying employment and social conditions of workers in the industry, trace the history of mining, its past and present discriminatory practices, its reliance on cheap labour, and the history of treating mine workers as subhuman.