platinum miners in south africa go on strike

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platinum miners in south africa go on strike

South Africa: Lessons of the platinum miners39; strike

The will of the miners were extraordinary! To hold out for nearly 21 weeks was a great feat. However, we must clearly state that there were a lot of mistakes made in the process. A strike must be carefully planned and conducted. The union did not set up a strike fund beforehand. This led to the situation that workers had to sell their belongings and go into debt to sustain themselves and their families. This also led to the situation that workers were reliant on NGOs and the Social Security Agency for food parcels and bare essentials. Also there were not regular mass rallies held throughout the duration of the strike. These rallies should be the norm during a strike, not the exception. It is at mass gatherings where workers feel that they belong to a collective, where they can show solidarity, meet and discuss the way forward. But the biggest lesson was that the strike was not spread to other unions and to others sectors of the economy. Had this been done, the strike could have been...

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The economy of Rustenburg, a city of about 500,000 people, has virtually collapsed. Mining related industries account for about half of the jobs here and about 60 percent of its economy. Figures released recently by Stats SA showed that mining production has seen its steepest fall in 47 years. Over the last quarter, mining GDP has fallen by 24 percent and the economy has contracted for the first time since the 2009 recession. One of the NGOs, Gift of the Givers, which usually conduct relief work in war zones and disaster struck areas like earthquakes, describes the situation in the Rustenburg area: In fact, due to the practice of using migrant labour , means that many workers have two families one in the Marikana area and another in the Eastern Cape province. This means that as many as 500,000 people are affected by the strike. Gift of the Givers has delivered food parcels to thousands of people in Marikana. Chairman, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said there was an overwhelming...

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All kinds of attempts have been made to end the strike. The latest one is by the new Minister of the Department of Mineral Resources, Ngoako Ramatlodi who has set up an inter governmental task team to facilitate talks between the union and the companies. The mandate of the technical team is to broaden the approach and explore all possibilities for a resolution to the problem. They will interrogate all the information, including the figures, provided by both parties and report back by the end of the day on what is possible, the minister said. Every day news comes out about progress, that the end of the strike is in sight, that the talks are at a sensitive stage and that all partners are committed to a speedy resolution. This is generally followed by news that no agreement has been reached and that talks are continuing. However, it now seems that even the new minister has run into a brick wall. After expressing great hope to end the strike, Minister Ramatlodi expressed...

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The central message from the bosses is clear: no concessions! This was confirmed by Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifidi in a speech in London. Addressing an event organised by the Melbourne Mining Club, he said: This is the essence of the bosses strategy. They want to hold the line on pay increases and improvements of conditions, not for any ideological reasons, but because their capitalist system is in crisis. There is also a second reason: they fear that if they give in to the demands of the workers and double the salaries in the platinum sector, it will set a dangerous precedent. This is the reason for the hard line stance of the capitalists who have clearly drawn a line in the sand and are refusing to budge. Right from the beginning of the strike, the attitude of the mining bosses was one of arrogance and intransigence. While AMCU has made several compromises on their sets of demands , including shifting its central demand of R12,500 to be impl...

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Many of the workers in the North West province originate from poor rural areas in the Eastern Cape and return home once or twice a year. This system of recruitment is called the migrant labour system and it has been in existence for over 100 years. Although it has undergone many changes, including using labour brokers and contract workers, in essence it is still in place. Recruitment is carried out by a company called The Employment Bureau of Africa which was set up by the Chamber of mines in 1902. It was only in 2005 that Teba broke links with the Chamber of Mines. Today it is a private company. But its role is still to recruit workers for the Chamber. Teba recruits 240,000 workers in South Africa with with the Eastern Cape being the the biggest at 35 percent. South African mines have always relied on large amounts of unskilled labour. Low wages are the lifeblood of mining under capitalism and recruitment has always been one of the crucial pillars on which the migrant labour...

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Attempts to reform the migrant labour system have been disastrous. One of the ways to reform the system was to offer a living out allowance to workers. Many workers opted to take this allowance of about R1800 per month to supplement their appalling wages. The consequence is that large communities of miners are now living in impoverished shanty towns around the mines, sharing toilets and taps with dozens of others. This has also meant that many workers have started second families, meaning that on average a single worker has to support 8 people in two provinces. A second way was to reduce Tebas main role as a central recruitment agency. Although this has meant that Tebas influence has weakened over the years, it has merely opened the door to labour brokers who are now also supplying labour to the mines. But, contrary to the previous position, many of the workers sourced in this way do not work for the mines but for the labour broker. The result is these workers live a precarious...

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A new paper released last week by two research units at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom shows that huge profits in the past decade were made by investors in the platinum companies, while workers benefited very little. The document called Demanding the Impossible? Platinum Mining Profits and Wage Demands in Context says that between 1999 and 2009 the operating profit margins of the three big platinum producers Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin were more than double those of other companies in the top 40 listed companies on the Johannesburg stock exchange in this period. It also states that the return on investment was over ten times the stock exchanges average on several occasions. In 1999 platinum cost $350 an ounce. A decade later it was $27,100 an ounce. As researchers Andrew Bowman and Gilad Isaacs commented on the report: The report also refers to how the remuneration of the bosses ta...

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The current strike has many similarities with the 1987 strike by the National Union of Mineworkers. The demands were very similar to the ones of the current strike, including abolishing the migrant labour system. The strike was at the time the longest and biggest strike in South Africa. When the NUM made little headway during the formal negotiations, it decided to ballot its members on whether to engage in strike action. The ballot of 210,000 mineworkers, held on August 2, 1987, indicated that 95% supported the strike. Thus, with the overwhelming support of its members, the NUM called for a general strike, beginning the following Sunday evening, August 9. On Monday August 10, the first official day of the industrial action, an estimated 340,000 people came out on strike, which represented more than 70% of all black coal and gold miners. Fearing that the strike might drag on, mining companies tried hard to break it quickly with brute force (as they did with the massacre at Marikana i...

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The answer is yes. It is clear that the strategy of the bosses is to sit out the strike and not to give in to the demands of the workers. Therefore, the only way forward is to spread the strike and call for solidarity from the ranks of other unions, including the COSATU unions. The fact that AMCU is not an affiliate of COSATU cannot be sued as an excuse. For instance, NUMSA, COSATUs biggest union, has already stated that it is considering a solidarity strike with AMCU. NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim hit the nail on the head when he said that the root cause of the strike in Marikana was the capitalist imperialist ownership of the mineral resources which is based on super exploitation of migrant labour. He said NUMSA holds the mining bosses responsible for the impact on the economy. This is perfectly correct. But these words must be turned into action. A defeat for AMCU will be a defeat for the the entire working class! Although South African workers have an extraordinary abil...

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