Thursday, August 9, marks the 20th anniversary of the biggest wage strike in South Africa’s history, when thousands of mineworkers in the gold and coal mines downed tools for three weeks.
In 1987, more than 300 000 black miners embarked on a strike, which was as probably as much related to the struggle against apartheid as to wage demands. The prolonged industrial action brought South Africa’s mining sector to its knees.
On the eve of August 9, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni called on employers in the South African mining fraternity to improve the welfare of their workers.
His comments came amidst local trade unions, which asked for double-digit increases this year, lodging disputes against some of South Africa’s biggest mining companies. Unions lodged disputes in both the gold and coal sectors, which could open the way for strikes.
But, unions also managed to negotiate their double-digit wage demands for many of its workers in this year’s round of wage talks, particularly in the platinum sector, and Baleni said miners had to honour those colleagues who had fought for improved pay.
“The good wage agreements we enter into this year, is a tribute to the fallen heroes and heroines of these struggles,” he said.
August 9 also marks the commemoration of Women’s Day in South Africa. On this day, in 1956, women marched to the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, to protest against anti-pass laws.
“As a day dedicated to women, and a day marking the anniversary of the 1987 miners strike, which saw the deaths of nine miners at the hand of apartheid police, and the dismissal of 50 000 mineworkers, the NUM reiterates its call for the acceleration of the upliftment and empowerment of women in the mining, energy and construction sectors,” Baleni said.
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