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The Great Platinum Mine Strike is Over! — No Comments

  1. The duration of this strike reminded me of the 1984 Miners strike in UK. The circumstances were different in that the UK strike was originally called to protest proposed closures of mines which the National Coal Board claimed were uneconomic. So it wasn’t about pay. Miners held out for a whole year. But finally their resistance collapsed. They went back to work with no improvement in their conditions of employment and the closures went ahead. UK began to import coal from Australia to make up for domestic shortfalls while the unemployment queues in Wales, Yorkshire and Scotland were added to by the ruthlessness of Margaret Thatcher’s actions. The government saw off the strikers and the unions, and the latter never recovered their former powers. Families suffered during that year long episode, and many former income earners never get back off the dole. Thirty years on, those same (former) mining communities remain bitter and resentful. BUT! Many observers argue that the government had to embark on that fight to demonstrate to the unions that they did not run the country. In truth, UK’s industrial relations have greatly matured since the likes of Arthur Scargill (communist leader of the NUM) have disappeared from the scene. In South Africa, it was not only the platinum mine owners who scoffed at the wage demand of R12,500 (as I understand it, for the most unskilled categories of worker). Much of the rest of the country agreed the demand was excessive and unrealistic. The bottom line is that businesses have to make money. Of course they can and should do this by being fair to their workers. But the other side of the coin is that workers (and their unions) must recognise economic realities. The strike (on top of the earlier Marikana massacres) has done untold damage to external confidence in the country, evidenced by the plummeting exchange rate. It might take years to recover that confidence. One wonders therefore, whether unions need to be brought to heal here, in the same way as they have been in UK.

    • It’s always a tricky scenario and even more so if i remember some of Britain’s history. Didn’t some of the same people who made the decision for closures profit from importing cheap coal from Russia (i think Jon Pilger did a good exposure on it – he was no Thatcher fan).

  2. Typical scenario – workers just want to be able to live comfortably like workers in Australia for example. They ask for better wages – ignored, so they strike. They end up losing more than they gain, the industry bitches about their losses, blaming the strikers, trying to turn the country against the workers, and then – business as usual, a few get stinkingly rich while the others struggle along, their real income slowly dwindling again and the rich / poor gap widening.

  3. There are a few things not correct? As far as I am aware it was R12,500? And it reads, yesterday, January 23rd? Surely it should read June 23rd?

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