Platinum giant Lonmin today reopened its South African mine where 44 people have been killed in a wildcat strike, and gave workers another day to come back to the job.
The world’s third-largest platinum producer said about 27 per cent of the mine’s 28,000 employees came to work today, but warned it could fire anyone who does not show up at 7:00 am (local time) on Tuesday.
The 11-day illegal strike by about 3,000 rock drill operators had closed production at the Marikana mine, where 34 people were gunned down by police on Thursday after 10 others were killed earlier in clashes between rival unions.
The powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) also urged workers to take up their tools, but urged an extension of the deadline as the miners’ families are still identifying bodies and arranging funerals.
But the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) — the driving force behind the wildcat strike — still sounded defiant, accusing Lonmin and NUM of a conspiracy to rid the mine of its members.
“We are not safe. Our phones have been tapped,” AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told a crowd at a shantytown near the mine. “They will then together analyse and draw up a list. Any AMCU member will then be fired.”
His group launched the strike calling for a tripling of the basic monthly wage of 4,000 rand ($486, 400 euros).
That led to clashes with the NUM whose membership has eroded since the emergence of AMCU.
But Lonmin said it has not formally received any demands from the strikers and said AMCU has not participated in its talks with workers.
“Our priority is to return to normality. We are in consultations with the unions, NUM, which is the majority union at the mine,” top Lonmin mining official Mark Munroe told a press conference.
“But those representing the vast majority of our workforce have been clear again in our discussions today that we need to try to return to some kind of normality as we go through that healing process.”