Gold One mine expects number of workers being disciplined for holding co-workers 'hostage' to rise

05 November 2023 - 15:10
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Mineworkers affiliated to AMCU singing inside the Gold One mine premises.
Mineworkers affiliated to AMCU singing inside the Gold One mine premises.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Gold One is moving with speed on the disciplinary hearings of employees suspended for allegedly holding co-workers hostage underground.

The company last week placed 34 labourers on suspension on charges relating to “participating in the sit-in underground which turned into a hostage situation, as well as picketing on surface, which was against a company instruction for all employees not to come to work during those days, as well as a violation of two court orders preventing any strike action”.

Gold One legal head Ziyaad Hassam said the disciplinary proceedings were expected to commence early this week.

“All hearings are planned to be individually conducted, with external chairpersons overseeing proceedings, where necessary,” he said.

The workers are on the firing line after more than 550 employees spent three days — from October 22 to 25 — underground.

After resurfacing, some of the workers said they were held against their will while others said it was a voluntary sit-in protest action against the company’s failure to recognise the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Hassam said the company was continuing with its internal investigation and he expects the number of workers being disciplined to rise.

He said though no criminal charges have been pressed against implicated workers, Gold One was working closely with the police and several employees have provided statements to authorities.

Gold One has a closed-shop agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which allows it to be the only union representing workers in the company.

Amcu, on the other hand, claims to have more members than NUM.

“The closed shop agreement with NUM remains valid. We received a petition from Amcu, purportedly on behalf of several employees calling for an end to the closed shop agreement.

“This has been passed on to NUM, who must now hold a ballot to determine the future of the closed shop agreement. No date has been agreed on for the ballot but we would like this to happen as soon as possible.”

While the company, police and NUM have labelled the event a kidnapping, rival union Amcu and some workers said the sit-in was in protest against the company’s failure to award Amcu organisational rights.

One of the workers, who preferred to remain anonymous, on Sunday told Sowetan that the company has suspended most of the workers who had conducted interviews during the three-day underground sit-in.

“Remember when we met during the underground strike, I declined to give you my personal details. This is because I know that the company was going to victimise people for exercising their freedom of expression,” said the worker.

“It is nonsense that the company is disciplining workers for fighting for their rights. The suspensions are sending a message that we as workers do not have rights in this company.

“Workers are not happy. The people who have been suspended were chosen by us workers to be our leaders. The company should also suspend all other workers because those who are suspended were representing all people who were interested in joining Amcu,” he said.

Musa Khalipha, an Amcu delegate who has been suspended by the mine, said he was surprised by the company's move as he was not at the company's premises during the strike.

“I think the suspension is personal because I was not even underground, not inside the Gold One property. On the list of those suspended, I am number one. The company has labelled us ringleaders of the underground sit-in. I am being victimised,” he said.


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