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CityPress - - News - Rens­burg – Dewald van

he pat­tern of mas­sive wild­cat strikes – usu­ally ef­fec­tively squashed by mass dis­missals – took root in the plat­inum in­dus­try years be­fore Marikana.

From 2007 on­wards, these strikes of­ten in­volved vi­o­lence, iso­lated as­saults and even the oc­ca­sional mur­der. At the time, one death was enough to cause a scan­dal and force a com­pany to sus­pend its shares on the stock ex­change, as Plat­inum Aus­tralia did in 2011 when a con­trac­tor was shot dead at its Smokey Hills mine in Lim­popo.

The golden thread was the rel­a­tive weak­ness of the dom­i­nant union, the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM), and the un­usu­ally large num­ber of con­tract labour work­ers used by plat­inum mines, some­thing that is not found in the gold sec­tor.

In 2007 and again in 2009, Mur­ray & Roberts Ce­men­ta­tion, con­trac­tor for Aquarius Plat­inum, fired thou­sands of strik­ing work­ers.

The NUM’s in­abil­ity to ap­pease work­ers was graph­i­cally il­lus­trated in 2009 when its deputy pres­i­dent, Piet Matosa, lost an eye when try­ing to talk strik­ers into re­turn­ing to work dur­ing a wild­cat strike at Im­pala.

Fast-for­ward to 2011, when Lon­min fired all 9 000 work­ers at its Ka­ree shaft to break another un­pro­tected strike.

The road to Marikana re­ally be­gins in Jan­uary 2012 when all 5 000 of Im­pala Plat­inum’s rock-drill op­er­a­tors went on an un­pro­tected strike, or­gan­ised by an in­terim work­ers’ com­mit­tee.

From week one, the NUM was per­sona non grata at the hos­tels as the strike ex­panded to in­clude 12 700 work­ers – all of whom got fired.

When Im­pala ul­ti­mately caved in and awarded a wage in­crease, Lon­min’s work­ers took up the ba­ton.

The dif­fer­ence this time was that the fire­and-re­hire tac­tic did not work.

PHOTO: ALET PRE­TO­RIUS

TWI­LIGHT Mine work­ers gather at the Won­derkop Sta­dium to hear what their union lead­ers have to say

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