Numsa workers underground for 48 hours in Rustenburg labour dispute
About 290 National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) members have been underground at Lanxess’s Rustenburg Chrome Mine for 48 hours after failing to emerge above ground on Wednesday afternoon.
Lanxess spokesperson Nomzamo Khanyile said on Wednesday morning that day shift staff at the mine went to work where Numsa members then embarked on an underground demonstration.
“We tried to reach out to them via radio to establish what the demands were on Wednesday without success,” Khanyile said.
She said workers who were held against their will, those who did not belong to Numsa, came to the surface on Thursday.
Khanyile said she had heard reports that there were engineers who were kept against their will, but said official company records did not reflect that.
She said the Numsa members’ demands were not communicated until Thursday afternoon, and said the main demand seemed to hinge on Numsa’s disagreement about its status as a minority union at the mine.
Khanyile said the employer viewed the action by the underground employees as an unprotected strike.
“Our focus now is to resolve the situation and ensure that everyone at the mine is safe. We have offered the workers water and food on the surface. They need to come up to access the supplies, but they have not yet done so,” Khanyile said.
The union acknowledged that its members had gone underground but said it was unclear what the demands of the workers were as union officials on the ground had not been able to communicate with them.
Numsa accused the employer of preventing its representatives from engaging directly with the striking members underground and said this had prolonged their protest.
“We are concerned about their wellbeing and their safety as none of them has had an opportunity to eat or rest,” Numsa regional secretary Jerry Morulane said.
Morulane said Numsa was demanding that management give its officials access to its members.