Workers hopeful of talks breakthrough in S.African mine

AFP , Tuesday 4 Sep 2012

In a wild-cat strike that has persisted for four weeks, representative of non-unionised South African mine workers states government-mediated talks expected Wednesday, hopes workers to go back on Thursday

Striking workers at South Africa's strife-torn Lonmin mine on Tuesday said wage demands must be on the table when talks resume to break a wildcat strike now in its fourth week.

"We have indicated before, all we are interested to talk about is 12,500 (rand), the rest can follow," said Zolani Bodlani, a representative of the non-unionised workers.

Workers have refused to return to work until the company accedes to demands for a wage increase from 4,000 rand a month (375 euros, $475) to 12,500 rand.

The dispute has been become even more bitter since police opened fire on striking miners last month killing 34 people.

Government-mediated talks will resume Wednesday, having adjourned Monday without a deal.

"From what I saw yesterday, I have hope that, maybe on Thursday the workers will go back to work," Bodlani told AFP.

"At least now there is direction. There will be something concrete they (Lonmin management) will come up with."

Lonmin, the world's third platinum producer, has warned that an indefinite strike would threaten 40,000 jobs.

On Tuesday, it reported that 6.5 percent of its full-time 28,000-strong workforce had shown up for work, up slightly from the day before.

But a group of around 200 strikers marched to a shaft and warned management that workers would be threatened if they went back to work.

On Monday, a South African court freed 162 miners, the first batch of 270 who had been arrested after the killing of 34 fellow workers gunned down by police in a wildcat strike last month. The rest are expected to be released later this week.

They had originally been charged in connection with the killings under the common purpose principle, under which a group of people can be charged for acting together to commit a criminal act.

Under pressure from the justice minister however, prosecutors on Sunday provisionally dropped the charge and announced that the miners would be released.

In the days before the August 16 mass shootings, 10 people –including two police officers – had been hacked and beaten to death in violent clashes between workers.

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