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Strike not over at Petra mines

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Ongoing wage negotiations are likely to continue to disrupt operations

SURFACED: Although miners ended their sit-in, the strike has not ended. Picture: Soraya Crowie

WHILE an underground sit-in, staged at Petra Diamonds mines in the Northern Cape, was brought to an end earlier this week, ongoing wage negotiations are likely to continue to disrupt operations.

An agreement to end the sit-in at Finsch, Wesselton and Joint Shaft, reached between Petra management and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), saw more than a hundred miners resurface on Tuesday evening, after having staged a sit-in underground at the Wesselton Mine and Joint Shaft when their shifts ended on Saturday morning.

Their colleagues at Finsch mine in Lime Acres joined the mass action when their shift ended on Tuesday morning.

Petra spokesperson, Gert Klopper, said yesterday that an agreement was reached that employees would not be dismissed for participating in the voluntary, illegal sit-in, which would normally have been a dismissible offence.

“This followed extensive discussions between the two parties in ongoing attempts by the company to resolve the issue peacefully, after which the workers were instructed by the NUM leadership to terminate the illegal and unprotected sit-in,” said Klopper.

“We are pleased that we could reach an agreement to end this unprotected industrial action, not only out of concerns for the health of participating employees, but also since it could have a potential impact on essential maintenance such as dewatering.”

Klopper said that upon returning to the surface at Joint Shaft and Wesselton, the miners underwent medical examinations.

“Seven were sent for observation and all can now be confirmed to be in good health.

“Throughout this protest, participating employees were being encouraged to terminate the action and come to the surface, and several were evacuated after requesting to be brought up for medical and other reasons.”

Klopper added that while the sit-in had been brought to an end, union members were still involved in a protected strike which would impact on production.

Meanwhile, Cosatu’s provincial spokesperson, Anele Gxoyiya, said that despite the miners ending their sit-in, little had been resolved between its members and mine management.

“The wage dispute at Petra Diamonds remains unresolved as the employer remains intransigent,” Gxoyiya said in a statement issued yesterday afternoon.

“The only matter that was resolved was the agreement between the employer and the union that no workers will be dismissed for embarking on a sit-in under ground.”

Gxoyiya added that while the union was pleased that the miners were able to return to the surface in good health, the strike was not over yet and the workers would continue with their action of a protected strike.

“As things stand, the union is prepared to continue with the negotiation process while the strike continues,” he emphasised. “The union is prepared to find an amicable solution while the employer is busy playing delaying tactics.”

Wage negotiations are scheduled to continue after the long weekend.