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Gold One Modder East Operations mine at Springs on the East Rand, October 25 2023. Picture: Freddy Mavunda/Business Day
Gold One Modder East Operations mine at Springs on the East Rand, October 25 2023. Picture: Freddy Mavunda/Business Day

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is set to concede to ending the closed shop agreement at the Gold One mine on the East Rand, which could end the labour impasse which has effectively shut production. 

The stalemate resulted in a hostage situation/sit-in last month and a large protest on Monday during which 11 workers were arrested. 

The Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (Amcu) has argued that NUM is no longer the majority union at the mine and has demanded a ballot of members there, which NUM has resisted.

The standoff is worrying as it is reminiscent of the union turf battle which culminated in the Marikana massacre at Lonmin in 2012, when 34 mineworkers were shot by police, 78 people were injured and over 200 were arrested. 

At Gold One’s Modder East shaft last month, some workers were claiming they were staging a sit-in underground in recent weeks, while others said they were being held hostage for three days. On Monday, tensions rose again when between 200 and 300 Amcu supporters blocked the entrance to the mine. A car belonging to a NUM shop steward was burnt, but no injuries were reported. The shop steward’s car was set alight after he tried to enter the mine. 

Amcu has approached the labour court to force the company to hold a ballot of 1,800 category A and B workers at the mine

Gold One head of legal Ziyaad Hassam told the FM on Tuesday that the mine has not quantified the financial losses the labour unrest has caused, but estimates that it has lost R7m in production per day. The cost of beefing up security at the mine and other “procurement costs” would also be taken into account.

Hassam says NUM’s closed shop agreement dates back to 2012 and the labour environment has been fairly stable since then, until the sit-in/hostage situation last month. 

Amcu has approached the labour court to force the company to hold a ballot of 1,800 category A and B workers at the mine. The matter is expected to be heard on Thursday. 

However, it is understood that NUM is set to announce the voluntary dissolution of its closed shop agreement with Gold One on Tuesday. NUM president Dan Baipile tells the FM the union is taking the “necessary steps” to address the situation, possibly without going to court. He says the provincial and regional structures will communicate the outcome of talks with the union’s legal team. 

Hassam says the company has negotiated with NUM to “bring about a quicker resolution to the impasse” through a voluntary dissolution to the agreement. While the union has expressed support for this route, it has not given the company a commitment in writing. 

He says the company will write to all workers and unions today, informing them that the mine will return to full operation on Wednesday and that all workers should report for duty. 

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