Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

Workers at Lanxess mine, including the 56 dismissed employees, are expected to return to their posts on Monday, after a nine-day strike by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).

The reinstatement of the 56 dismissed workers and concessions on other issues sealed the deal that ended the strike on Thursday, says Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.

“These are workers who should have never been dismissed in the first place,” she said.

Of the 56, 24 were fired for participating in a community protest after the company failed to live up to its promises to develop the area in line with its social and labour plans, Hlubi-Majola said.

The rest were axed for embarking on a legal strike at the mine, she said. “Where in SA do you fire workers for exercising their democratic right to protest? That’s rubbish,” charged Hlubi-Majola.

She said the 24 were reinstated immediately with no conditions, and while the rest also had their dismissals reversed, an arbitration process will rule if they are guilty of any misconduct.

“The company says there are charges against them but we dispute that. For Lanxess to reinstate these employees, it’s because they have to, not because they are doing us favours. That’s our view.”

The deal between the mine and Numsa was brokered after mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe’s intervention.

The disgruntled employees staged an underground sit-in on June 19 to protest against sexual harassment and the dismissal of Numsa members at the Rustenburg mine, among other grievances.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim described the strike as having been very difficult for the union’s members. “They fought against an inflexible management who denied them food in an attempt to break the strike. For nine days they slept on the hard, cold stone floor of the shaft, in freezing temperatures, inhaling the fumes of the chrome dust,” he said.

According to the proposal signed by the parties, a mine captain accused of sexually assaulting his female subordinate will be placed on special leave pending finalisation of an investigation into the matter.

It was also agreed that the mine will conduct investigations into allegations that three managers failed to properly deal with the sexual harassment allegations. The outcome will determine what sanctions to impose on them, if any.

“This is a victory for Numsa and for our members ... [who] made huge sacrifices to expose a cruel management and they emerged victorious,” said Jim.

“They were militant and yet they remained disciplined throughout their ordeal. They are heroes of the struggle and we salute them. They will return to work on the July 1.”

Lanxess thanked Numsa and Mantashe for their “efforts in assisting the company in resolving this matter”.

The strike started on the morning of June 19, when 290 Numsa members embarked on an underground sit-in strike during their day-shift. 

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za