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Amplats workers protest against job cuts

Published on 16/01/2013

Hundreds of Anglo American Platinum workers downed tools and gathered Wednesday to decide how to respond to 14,000 South African job cuts planned by the firm.

The work stoppage halted operations at three Amplats mines around the city of Rustenburg, 110 kilometres (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

“A group of its employees at its Khomanani, Thembelani and Tumela mines have refused to go underground this morning and are engaged in an illegal work stoppage,” Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole told AFP.

A small group of workers chanted outside the Khomanani shaft, one of four the top global platinum producer plans to close down, in a reprisal of strikes which rocked South Africa last year.

They waited for representatives — who also led two months of illegal stoppages last year — to finish a meeting with mine management.

Last year’s protests led to the deaths of over 50 people, the majority strikers shot by police in one day of bloodshed at the Marikana platinum mine.

Security was again ramped up on Wednesday.

A police helicopter circled overhead, while an armoured security vehicle kept close watch from the ground.

While some miners were defiant, there was also a sense of resignation.

“All of us here, our work is gone,” said 28-year-old Mpolokeng Mosala, who has worked at the mine for five years.

“I’m going home to live with my mother. I won’t look for work.”

Amplats on Tuesday announced it would close four shafts and sell a mine in sweeping restructuring, saying operations had become unsustainable.

The vast majority of job cuts — 13,000 in all — would be made around Rustenburg.

Last year, when workers downed tools for months demanding higher wages, companies warned the inflated wage bill might make operations unprofitable.