AngloGold Ashanti, the third-largest gold producer, was forced to suspend all its South African operations yesterday, as wildcat strikes spread to all its mines, the company said.
Unprotected strikes at Gold Fields and AngloGold have shut about 39 percent of South African gold mines’ capacity, with workers demanding a 22 percent wage increase, the same as that awarded to some categories of workers at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine after a violent strike in which 45 people were killed.
David Davis, an SGB Securities gold analyst, said: “Workers are now demanding wage increases according to the ‘Lonmin settlement’. Strike action may well spread from other mines to Harmony Gold’s mines and to other industries.”
Mark Wilkes, a senior equity trader at GT247.com, said: “[Mining companies] with large pools of labour [that] are unionised are being marked down as strike manifests. Their share price is down because of fear of possible strikes.
“There is also fear that the unions are not doing what they should be doing.”
AngloGold said its workers had embarked on an unprotected strike, preventing the commencement of the night shift on Tuesday.
Workers at West Wits and the balance of the Vaal River region’s operations joined those at Kopanong, who embarked on a wildcat strike on September 20.
AngloGold’s management said no formal demands had been presented yet by the striking workers and the company was following the necessary standard legal procedures to obtain a court interdict.
Anglo American Platinum warned yesterday that as from today it would start disciplinary action against those of its employees who persisted in unprotected strike action.
Angloplat said it continued to experience a low turn-out rate at its Rustenburg mines, with 21 000 employees out on a wildcat strike.
The company said workers had failed to heed several warnings to return to work.
Chief executive Chris Griffith said the Rustenburg mining operations were under considerable pressure.
“I am making a personal appeal for all striking employees to return to work immediately. If our employees do not heed this call, we will simply have no choice but to begin disciplinary action [today] against any employees who remain on strike and that action could lead to dismissals,” he said.
The striking workers threatened to escalate the strike until their demand for a monthly salary of R16 000 was met.
“We have seven days to discuss the demands with the mine management,” Evans Ramokga, one of the workers’ leaders, said yesterday.
He said the workers’ demand was not new to the Anglo American subsidiary, as there were already workers earning R16 000 at its operations.
Ramokgoba said the employees intended to march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to present the workers’ grievances to President Jacob Zuma.
Gold Fields had obtained a second interdict against striking workers at its Beatrix mine in the Free State, and was considering taking action, the company said yesterday.
“Firing the striking workers is an option we are considering,” spokesman Sven Lunsche said. “We obtained the second interdict, which gives us a right to fire striking workers.”
Workers at the company’s Kloof-Driefontein Complex West mine, near Merafong in Gauteng, went on an unprotected strike on September 9, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500 after deductions.
The strike spread to the west section of Beatrix (formerly the Oryx mine) near Welkom on Friday, and to the rest of the operation by Monday.
This took place against the backdrop of former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s appearance in court yesterday on charges of money laundering.
He told his supporters he would again be visiting the mines as part of the “economic freedom” campaign.
On a recent visit to Marikana, Malema was forced to leave by the police. – Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Sapa