Blyvoor miners finally return to surface, in talks with management over grievances
Hundreds of miners who staged a ‘sit-in’ over pay issues and the closed shop agreement with the in-house union at the Blyvoor Gold Mine in western Gauteng on Wednesday returned to the surface late Thursday. Daily Maverick understands management at the mine is in talks with the workers over their grievances.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu confirmed to Daily Maverick that the miners had returned to the surface from around 17.00 on Thursday. The exact number of miners involved in the protest remains unclear, but the NUM has said as many as 800 were involved.
“The miners have been ordered not to report for duty for health and safety reasons. Management and union Reps will continue with deliberations and further announcements will follow in due course,” a source familiar with the mining operation told Daily Maverick.
NUM has said the main grievance of the miners is that they want to join the NUM at the operation, which has a closed-shop agreement with an in-house union. There are also disputes over incentive payments and the workers are pushing for a 13th cheque at a time when gold prices have generally been red hot.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Aggrieved Blyvoor mine workers stage underground sit-in ‘because they want to join the NUM’
The flare-up at Blyvoor comes in the wake of last month’s drama at the Gold One mine in Ekurhuleni. In that saga, NUM accused rival the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) of holding hundreds of its members hostage. Amcu maintained it was a sit-in protesting against NUM’s closed shop agreement, which excludes minority unions from bargaining.
In a bid to ease tensions at Gold One, NUM this week terminated its closed shop agreement there.
Read more in Daily Maverick: NUM terminates closed-shop agreement at East Rand’s Gold One as violence continues
Meanwhile, tensions have clearly been raised around Blyvoor, an operation which has been wracked by violence before.
Wels Sempe, a company director and leader of the Blyvoor Workers’ Union, was murdered on 2 March 2021, an incident that was followed by violent wildcat strikes and protest action.
Read more in DAily Maverick: Gauteng’s Blyvoor mine reboot hits a violent snag after union leader’s murder
Blyvooruitzicht, as it was originally known, was established in 1937 and for decades was a cash spinner of note. But in 2012 it became a flashpoint of violent labour unrest and collapsed into liquidation.
Blyvoor was subsequently revived by miner Peter Skeet, a flamboyant risk-taker who died in April this year. It once again faces an uncertain future. DM