Northam Platinum mine strike ends, workers expected for night shift on Tuesday

JANUARY 20, 2015

A week-long strike at Northam Platinum’s Zondereinde mine has ended with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the mine’s management and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) announced on Tuesday.

All striking employees at Northam are expected to return to work on Wednesday, while some were expected to resume night shift as of Tuesday.

Northam Platinum’s management and the NUM had met on Monday without resolution. However, a company spokesperson said on Monday it was "unlikely" that operations would resume on Tuesday.

About 4 600 employees affiliated with the NUM downed tools last Tuesday, after a regular mass meeting on grievances over hiring practices and sick notes raised fears of unilateral alteration of workplace policies.

Northam maintains it had not changed policies without due consultation, but had instituted a process of investigation of sick leave applications over the December to January period, after noting a spike in absenteeism.

Management continued to engage with the NUM in a bid to normalise operations as soon as possible, the company said.

Northam suspended operations at its Zondereinde mine last Friday after reporting violence and rising tension between striking and non-striking employees at hostels.

The strike resulted in production losses of about 1 000oz per day or the loss of R11.5 million in revenue and R2.4 million in forfeited wages.

Smelting operations remained unaffected, the company said on Monday.

Following an interdict against the strike, 2 000 employees – representing 40% of the permanent workforce, heeded the call to return to work last week Thursday.

Last year, the NUM successfully led an 11-week wage strike that achieved an up to 9.5% increase for lower-category employees.

It maintains that it continues to represent 82% of Northam’s workforce, but the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) remains dominant in the rest of the sector, and has increased its membership at Northam to 15%.