JOHANNESBURG – Anglo American Platinum agreed to reinstate 12,000 South African workers dismissed earlier this month for staging illegal strikes, a spokeswoman said Saturday, as police fired rubber bullets at some striking miners in Rustenburg.
The police fired on hundreds of Anglo American Platinum, or Amplats, miners in the North West province who had gathered near the Olympia Stadium, apparently to block another rally by the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU). It was unclear if anyone had been injured.
The Amplats strikers, in the black T-shirts associated with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and armed with sticks and stones, threatened to attack COSATU marchers in red T-shirts, according to the South African Press Association, which reported Saturday that some of the miners had vowed not to return to work until their wage demands were met.
AMCU is a start-up union that represents strikers who regard COSATU and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as too close to mine bosses and their capital. The miners said that representatives from NUM have not been properly representing them during the strikes.
Some of the Amplats miners had been threatening since their dismissal to make the company's three operations in Rustenburg ungovernable if they were not reinstated and their salaries increased. They want 16,000 rand (about $1,800) in monthly pay. Amplats only offered them a one-off "hardship allowance" of 2,000 rand (about $230) if they accepted to return to work.
Mpumi Sithole of Anglo American Platinum said the workers had until Tuesday to return to their jobs "on the same terms and conditions of employment" as before they went on strike.
Sithole said that a meeting Friday of "all parties expressed commitment for a return to work in the interests of the employees, their livelihoods and the company." Amplats' decision to reinstate the fired workers came the day after the chief executive of its parent company, Anglo American, announced her resignation. Earlier this month the rating service S & P's had lowered its outlook on Anglo American from "stable" to "negative" because of the turmoil in South Africa. Amplats is the world's top producer of platinum.
If the Amplats miners return to work, it would bring an end to labor unrest that damaged South Africa's reputation as an investment destination. At the peak of the strikes, some 80,000 miners, representing about 16 percent of the mining workforce, were on strike across South Africa. The labor unrest originated in the platinum belts outside Johannesburg and later spread to gold and iron mines.