Village plans to fire 840 striking Cons Murch workers

22nd September 2011 By: Christy van der Merwe

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) − JSE-listed Village Main on Thursday stated that it had started a process to dismiss members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) who took part in an unprotected strike in the form of a go-slow at its Cons Murch mine in Limpopo.

Thus, Village could dismiss as much as 88% of its workforce at the mine, as about 840 of the total 950 employees belonged to the NUM.

The dispute arose over historic overtime payments claimed by the employees resulting from their employment at Cons Murch, before Village bought the mine.

Village announced in October last year that it would acquire the Cons Murch mine, which produces gold and antimony.

The go-slow action has taken place over the last two weeks, and has negatively impacted production from the underground operations at Cons Murch, with daily production achieved at around a third of normal production levels.

Village said that in an attempt to normalise the labour situation and avoid drastic action, a further and final ultimatum was issued to striking employees to normalise production levels by September 21.

It was anticipated that there would be no production from Cons Murch for at least two weeks and that antimony and gold production for the December 2011 quarter could be some 500 t and 25 kg lower respectively, than that forecast for the September quarter.

The lower production would not significantly impact on the forecast production for the September quarter, but would have a materially negative impact on the Cons Murch results for the December quarter. However, the company maintained that it would not materially impact the results of Village for the December quarter.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said that the union was disappointed about the dismissals, particularly as it was not formally made aware of the strike. He indicated that the issues might be arising because the NUM has been opposed to Village taking control of the mine from Metorex.

However, Village FD Marius Saaiman stated that the company had followed “the letter of the law”, and that the NUM had been informed of the processes over the last two weeks.

The Cons Murch mine is located in Gravelotte, about 50 km from Phalaborwa, and has three operational shafts. There are about 950 employees, and the NUM represents mainly the semi-skilled category of the workforce, with Solidarity representing most of category A employees, which include miners and artisans.