S. African union calls for end to Lonmin strike

15th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

Union leaders at South Africa's Lonmin platinum mine on Wednesday called on workers to end an illegal strike sparked by the shooting death of a union leader last weekend.

"Workers, I say to you let us go back to work," Joseph Mathunjwa, head of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), told thousands of cheering workers.

AMCU mineworkers had downed tools on Tuesday, demanding that a rival union, the once dominant National Union of Mineworkers, be ejected from the mine.

AMCU is also demanding recognition from the firm since it has overtaken NUM as the leading union at the mine.

"There are channels to be followed," Mathunjwa said. "Go back to work so that your enemies will not take advantage of this situation."

Workers were expected to return to work with immediate effect and report for the night shift.

Work had stopped at all of the firm's 13 shafts in the northwestern Rustenburg mining town, the world's top platinum-producing region.

AMCU leaders had initially distanced themselves from the strike, while NUM said their members were not part of it.

The two unions are locked in a vicious power struggle over who represents the majority of miners at Marikana, where 34 miners were shot dead by police last year.

NUM still enjoys Lonmin's recognition, despite losing scores of members to the more militant AMCU in the wake of the shooting.

"Still NUM is being treated as majority union at the workplace," Mathunjwa told AFP earlier Wednesday.

AMCU is now expected to take its fight for recognition to a labour mediation body.

Tensions have been inflamed by recent violence at the volatile mine, with the unions blaming each other for the instability.

AMCU regional leader Mawethu Steven and two brothers, said to be members of NUM, were killed in separate incidents at the weekend.

"NUM is carrying firearms at the workplace wrongfully without being reprimanded by management," he said.

Police have begun an investigation, but so far no arrests have been made.

The latest stoppage at Lonmin comes at the start of South Africa's so-called strike season when workers pour onto the streets demanding annual wage hikes.

Lonmin shares recovered almost one percent in London trade Wednesday, only slightly up from a battering it received the day before.

© 2013 AFP

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