VENTURES AFRICA – South Africa’s Gold Fields has made headway in ending the mining strikes that have crippled its output over recent weeks, with all strikers returning to work at its Beatrix mine.
The gold producer today announced that 2,800 striking workers returned to their positions at shaft 4 of the Beatrix mine, putting the mine back into full production, and achieving full attendance. This comes a day after 6,200 striking miners returned to work at Gold Fields on Wednesday, once again manning the Beatrix mine’s shafts numbered 1, 2 and 3. The company thus confirmed today that all striking workers had returned to the Beatrix mine.
The return to work seems to have been prompted by Gold Fields’ announcement on Tuesday that it would fire all striking workers who did not report for duty by Thursday. The strikers had rejected a pay proposal put to the unions last week by the Chamber of Mines; however, Gold Fields confirmed that workers returning to work by the deadline would nonetheless benefit from the proposed package.
Gold Fields – which is the fourth largest gold bullion producer in the world – remains affected by illegal strikes across its other operations, causing on-going significant disruptions to the company’s output. 11,000 members of the 14,300 labour force are still on strike at the company’s KDC West operations despite the threat of dismissal, and a further 8,500 workers are striking at the KDC East site to whom the dismissal was not directed given that this group joined the action only last Sunday.
On Tuesday Gold Fields revealed that of a 35,700 employees, 23,540 were engaged in illegal strikes as the 8,500 workers at the KDC East site joined the strikes relatively late in the game last Sunday. KDC West productions have been halted since September 9, while the Beatrix operations have been stopped since September 21 due to walk outs.
The company is reported to have lost over 1.2 billion rand ($140 million) in revenue due to the labour unrest to date, equivalent to 65,000 ounces of lost gold output while the company’s shafts were shut. In addition, the company will have to contend with significant infrastructure damage caused by violence on the part of strikers over recent weeks.
In announcing the proposed dismissal on Tuesday, Chief Executive Office Nick Holland said: “We believe that the company has been more than reasonable in the face of all of these challenges and has done everything possible to deal with striking employees’ concerns, but they continue to refuse to return to work; maintain an uncompromising and hard-line attitude; and foster violence, intimidation and damage to property. Gold Fields can no longer tolerate the growing state of lawlessness which, in some instances, is approaching anarchy. We intend to act decisively to bring these unlawful strikes to an end.”
He added: “It is incumbent on all people in leadership positions to now act boldly to bring to a close this infamous episode in our labour relations history. Failure to do so could have unimaginable consequences, not only for the mining industry, but for the whole of South Africa.”