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NUM strike upholds rights at Northam Platinum

22 January, 2015A 6-day strike by 5,000 members of South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at Northam Platinum ended on 20 January after workers’ accepted a draft memorandum of understanding developed with management.  

Protesting workers at Northam’s Zondereinde mine in South Africa were unhappy at management plans to unilaterally change recruitment and sick note policies. 

"There were clear indications to divide, weaken and reverse all the progressive policies that are regulating the employment relations at Northam Platinum Mine. (For example) workers discovered that a white female employee was employed without following proper procedures. When management was alerted to this malpractice they tried to justify it. Employees further demonstrated against this practice. Management responded by threatening disciplinary action without dealing with the actual issues," said NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, NUM, says the company also attempted to discipline workers who had valid sick notes and force them to work while they are injured or unwell.

"Workers were also subjected to unfair dismissals for being on valid sick leave. We suspect that management wanted to alter these policies for intentions known to them without informing the union leadership and without following the due processes," Baleni added.

As a result of negotiations, a draft memorandum of understanding was accepted by the workers, in which the parties have agreed the following:

  • To jointly design a process with no conditions or pre-conditions, which will focus on issues raised prior to and during the strike
  • That the Peace and Stability Framework will be adhered to.
  • Not to dwell on the past but commit to a multi-stakeholder healing process aimed at resetting the relationship
  • Both parties must appeal for peace and industrial relations stability
  • That the above agreement will be effected on the proviso that all striking employees must return to work

Northam Platinum produces around 1,000 ounces of platinum group metals per day, which is 65 per cent of the mining company’s total output.