Congress condemns the killing of 34 mineworkers by police at the Marikana Lonmin platinum mine on 16 August. The killings have sent shock waves through South Africa and beyond. As Lonmin, the company at the centre of the dispute, is based in Britain as well as in South Africa, and out of normal trade union solidarity, British unions have a special interest in the dispute and the terrible circumstances that have resulted.
The dispute has become complex, but its origins lie in the falling price of platinum and attempts by employers to reduce workers' terms and conditions to protect profits, by setting worker against worker. The dispute throws into sharp relief the inequalities of income and life chances in South Africa nearly two decades since the fall of apartheid. Mineworkers, like so many other South African workers, do not receive a fair share of the profits made by the industries they work for, and receive appallingly low pay compared with workers in similar industries in other countries, obscenely lower than those of their employers. The mines continue to have an atrocious health and safety record. All too often miners still live in conditions like hostels and townships redolent of the apartheid era, despite agreements secured by unions from employers. Congress condemns the mine's owner Lonmin, for the low pay and appalling conditions it has subjected miners to, its dreadful health and safety record and the poor industrial relations it has imposed.
The deaths on Thursday 16 August - and the deaths of ten police officers, trade unionists and others that had already occurred - have shocked us all. No one should ever have to face such violence in an industrial dispute, and we salute the heroic efforts of trade unionists in South Africa over many years to deliver a system where economic justice can be achieved without bloodshed. We support COSATU in their condemnation of the use of live ammunition in protest actions by workers and in communities. Congress condemns the arrest of 270 miners under the apartheid-era Common Purpose laws and welcomes their release last week.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry clearly needs to be allowed to do its work thoroughly, and its findings need to be given close attention.
We urge the employers at Lonmin, and employers in the industry generally, to deal honestly and openly with the concerns raised by their employees and their unions and to engage in collective bargaining in good faith: in particular, we call on Lonmin and other platinum sector employers to accede to union calls for sectoral bargaining.
We send our condolences and sympathy to the families of all those killed in the course of the dispute. In particular, we express our solidarity to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) - whose own Congress takes place next week - in their work to resolve the issues facing the mining industry and restore peace with justice in the platinum fields. We stand ready to assist our colleagues in the South African trade union movement in any way we can.
Minutes and agendas (600 words) issued 11 Sep 2012
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