A total of 1 500 striking Gold Fields workers were fired today for failing to heed a 2pm deadline to return to work. The dismissed miners have 24 hours to lodge an appeal, the company said in a statement.
They were all employed at the company's KDC West mine near Carletonville which has a staff of about 14 300. Those fired formed part of a pocket of strikers who have refused to return to work while the bulk of workers adhered to the deadline.
Company spokesman Willie Jacobsz said about 80% of the 15 000 illegal strikers had returned to work by 2pm. "About 80% of the employees on strike have clocked in," he said.
This did not mean the strike was over. The clocking in had to be verified and reconciled with who actually reported for work. "But it's looking very promising. These are very positive steps," Jacobsz said.
On Tuesday, Gold Fields' CEO Nick Holland gave the workers an ultimatum to be back at work by 2pm today or face dismissal. This applied to workers at Gold Fields' Beatrix one, two, and three shafts in the Free State, and at its KDC West mine. Workers at Beatrix One, Two, and Three started returning to work on Tuesday morning. They had been on a wildcat strike since September 24.
By Wednesday, Gold Fields reported a full turnout of 6 200 employees at the three Beatrix shafts.
Before the deadline, half of KDC west's workers had clocked in. By 2pm, the figure had risen to around 90%, about 11 000 workers.
Jacobsz said at the KDC East mine, which was not covered by the ultimatum, 8000 employees remained on strike. Hundreds of miners gathered on a hilltop off the mine's property for a meeting, where they decided to stop miners who wanted to return to their posts. "There's no one that will go underground tomorrow " workers' representative Vusi Tshomela said. "We will go to the shafts and stop the people from going underground."
They had decided to stay on the hilltop throughout the night, but by late afternoon many were leaving. They vowed to return tomorrow morning. Others waited for the rumoured arrival of National Union of Mineworkers' president Senzeni Zokwana. He addressed workers alongside Congress of SA Trade Unions' general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi yesterday afternoon.
They told workers of a possible increase in the current wage offer if they returned to work. Throughout the day, Gold Fields security guards remained stationed at a barricade on the road leading to the hilltop, allowing only pedestrians through. They stopped and searched cars entering and leaving the mine. One miner, who did not want to be named, said he was worried about tomorrow. "Something is going to happen tomorrow."