Gold One miners resurface after more than three days underground after second hostage drama
The second incident involving a prolonged sit-in at the Gold One mine in Springs ended late Monday morning as miners who went underground on the Thursday night shift began resurfacing. The company and the National Union of Mineworkers say this and a similar event in October were hostage situations with miners coerced to stay underground.
Over 400 miners at Gold One’s Modder East operation in Springs began resurfacing late Monday morning, NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu told Daily Maverick. The NUM provided video footage of the miners emerging (see video).
Mammburu said four of the miners who had been underground, including at least one National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) member, were assaulted and severely beaten and had been taken to the mine’s medical station for treatment. He also said the miners had no food or water during their ordeal.
“This is a crime scene and the people were are responsible must be arrested,” Mammburu said.
NUM, apparently for legal reasons, is not pointing a direct finger this time at its rival the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which it accused of using coercion during the October hostage and sit-in drama at Gold One. Amcu and Gold One officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Tears and joy as mine workers return safely to the surface after Gold One hostage drama
In a bid to defuse tensions, NUM said in November that it was terminating its closed-shop agreement — which excludes minority unions from bargaining — in the wake of the October incident. That agreement was seen as a flashpoint of Amcu’s ire.
Read more in Daily Maverick: NUM terminates closed-shop agreement at East Rand’s Gold One as violence continues
Mammburu said a month’s notice was required and that the closed shop agreement will expire on 14 December.
Yet tensions have clearly persisted and recalled the enmity which existed between NUM and AMCU after the latter dislodged the former as the dominant union on the platinum belt in 2012.
The subsequent turf war between the unions claimed dozens of lives and triggered wildcat strikes and temporary mine closures, unnerving investors.
But the arch-rivals patched things up over the past two years, uniting on several occasions in wage talks that produced multi-year settlements that were achieved — with a couple of exceptions — without a single tool being downed.
The Gold One drama has also taken place against the backdrop of rising labour tensions, including sit-ins — effectively wildcat strikes — at other mines such as the Wesizwe platinum operation involving NUM members.
This came after the mine signalled its intention of laying off up to over 500 workers, and then subsequently advertised for management posts, according to NUM.
With a wave of lay-offs expected in South Africa’s struggling platinum sector in the face of collapsing prices, tensions are being stoked in a sector that has seen a notable decline in labour militancy in recent years. DM