The South African Federation of Trade Union sends a message of support and solidarity with 91 mine workers who are still fighting for their reinstatement five years after they were dismissed following a strike and sit-in at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine in the Northern Cape in 2012
SAFTU pledges its full support and urges all workers to join these historic fighters fin their struggle for justice.
It is fitting that this message coincides with the day, two months before the Kumba strike, when we remember the tragic murder of 34 mine workers at Marikana. It is when we renew the call for all the families who lost their loved ones, those who survived the bloodshed and those who lost their jobs, to be fully compensated, and for all those who planned, organized and carried out the merciless slaughter of the workers to be brought to justice.
It is also a day when we should remember the courageous battles fought by all mine workers against their daily exploitation by greedy employers like Lonmin and Kumba. They work under appallingly dangerous and unhealthy conditions and are paid low wages which come nowhere near what should be paid to workers who risk their health and their lives miles underground to skillfully create the mineral wealth which has brought riches to the companies’ owners.
After the 2012 strike, Kumba, a part of the giant Anglo-American monolith, dismissed 208 workers for “participating in an unprotected strike”. Just as at Marikana it was a strike for a living wage and improved working conditions.
The National Union of Mineworkers opened a case for their reinstatement but dragged their heels and tried to reach a deal with the company, which led to the reinstatement of 90 workers but not the remaining 118, a move which was clearly an attempt at ‘divide and rule’.
For the next five years 91 of these 118 workers have never stopped fighting for their jobs, but to their disgust the Labour Court, on 30 June 2017 eventually ruled in favor of the employer and rejected the call for reinstatement.
But the workers are not giving up and are preparing their arguments for an appeal to the Labour Appeal Court.
SAFTU has pledged its support and will give all assistance possible to try to win this appeal. At the same time, however it warns that important though the courts are, they cannot be relied on to rule against powerful employers. Like all workers’ battles this fight will ultimately be won through mass action on the streets.
Working-class solidarity is not simply a nice idea, but an essential weapon for workers. The trade union movement was built around slogans like ‘United we stand! Divided we fall’ and ‘An injury to one is an injury to all!’ because individuals and isolated groups of workers will always be at a disadvantage when confronted by rich and powerful monopoly companies.
Solidarity action by workers, at the workplace and in the streets, is more vital than ever at a time like now when mine jobs are disappearing every day and more workers are facing poverty as the axe falls at one pit after another.
And it is not only in the mines. The job-loss bloodbath is engulfing workers on farms, in factories, supermarkets and even the banks. As a result more and more families are being driven into a life of poverty.
More and more of the remaining jobs are being outsourced, casualised or hated to labour brokers, with wages being forced down to the lowest level of poverty pay that employers can get away with. Some workers, like the zama-zamas, try to survive by risking their lives and their freedom to scrape together a few rands to feed their families.
That is why SAFTU calls for the nationalization of the mines, and other strategic industrial and financial monopolies, so that they can be democratically run by, and accountable to, the workers, local communities and the country as a whole, as part of a socialist plan of production, in line with the Freedom Charter’s call for the the national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, to be restored to the people and the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.
SAFTU was launched in April this year by workers who decided that enough was enough; we had to stop the slide into super-exploitation and wage slavery, and agreed that existing unions had failed the workers, especially the 76% who are not members of a union.
We are committed to recruit and fight for all workers, employed and unemployed, permanent or casual, secure or insecure. And central to this campaign is the battle to save and create decent jobs. This is why we are duty-bound to back workers like the brave Kumba 91 strikers. Who will not take no for an answer until they win their appeal for reinstatement.
You are setting a fine example for other thousands of workers who face the same challenges and looking for the same solutions. We are all inspired by your determination to fight to the end against ruthless employers and a capitalist economic system which enriches a wealthy elite while while stealing the wealth from the workers who create it in the Ines, factories and farms.
Viva the Kumba 91 Viva!
Reuben, 083 868 3855
Mmatli, 082 765 2407