18 October, 2012Over 2,000 members and supporters of the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) marched to Impala Platinum’s Johannesburg headquaters on Saturday 13 October 2012 to protest union bashing and undermining of the collective bargaining system, which has been the trigger to the current labour issues being experienced in the mining sector.
In January 2012, workers at Impala Platinum went on an unprotected strike, in protest to the company taking a unilateral decision to give some workers an 18 per cent increase. The increase was given outside of the collective bargaining structure and without the involvement of Num. The six week strike was finally resolved through negotiation with Num for an across the board increase of 18 per cent.
However, the action of Impala Platinum resulted in mine workers in other companies making demands outside of the collective bargaining process and pressurising mining companies to bargain outside the established and recognised structures. This was the issues behind the Lonmin strike and subsequent labour unrest that has claimed the lives of at least 70 people so far.
Two forces were at play here, a rival union looking to make inroads and opportunistic behaviour of mining companies, described by Num spokesperson Lesiba Seshoko as “motivated by divide and rule tactics, to ensure that workers have no confidence in the union”.
These two forces have been enabled by violence and intimidation that has gone unchecked at Impala Platinum. According to Seshoko, “Impala has done nothing to address the violence, even allowing workers to carry guns and other weapons to work. Our Num office at Impala was violently closed in January and remains closed in the current atmosphere of intimidation. What’s more is that Impala has taken no disciplinary action against perpetrators.” Num demands that the security issues at Impala Platinum are immediately addressed to end the violence and intimidation and reopen the Num offices.
Impala Platinum has also publically spoken of a decline in Num membership in the company from 70 per cent to 13 per cent but has backed out of a verification process. Num alleges that workers have been forced to resign their membership and join the rival union and has demanded an independent verification exercise, in the absence of intimidation, to establish their representation at the mine.