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South Africa mines

Social dialogue needed to prevent further violence in SA mines, says ILO

The ILO calls for social dialogue and a review of labour market institutions to avoid further violence in the South African mining industry

News | 01 October 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – As an inquiry begins into the fatal August shooting of dozens of striking miners in South Africa, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has called for high-level social dialogue in order to prevent further violence and unrest.

Vic Van Vuuren, Director of ILO’s Pretoria Office
Such dialogue, said Vic Van Vuuren, head of ILO’s Pretoria Office, needs to extend beyond the workplace, to address the wider issues facing South African society.

“The current labour legislation is in line with ILO standards and is more than adequate to meet the current demands. The need, however, is for continued social dialogue at the highest levels to address poverty and high levels of unemployment. This, in turn, should permeate into the various sectors and into the communities at large as the grievances are diverse and not confined to the work place,” he said.

Van Vuuren also called for a review of the current labour market institutions and urged government not to respond disproportionately in the face of protests.

“It is important for government to ensure the safety and well-being of people and property without resorting to excessive measures that could exacerbate an already volatile situation.”

On August 16, 34 striking miners were shot dead by police, the worst incident of its kind since the end of apartheid in 1994. In total, more than 40 people died in weeks of unrest in August at the Marikana platinum mine, owned by Lonmin.

Since then, a wave of strikes have hit South Africa’s mining industry – last week tens of thousands of workers went on strike at AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer. The spread of the unrest has raised concerns about the potential breakdown of the collective bargaining system which has operated for the last 18 years.

Van Vuuren said the current system had been crafted at the advent of democracy in 1994 and included the setting up of the tripartite National Economic, Development and Labour Council, which brings together labour, business and community organisations in social dialogue.

“The collective bargaining machinery and the social partners have however not kept pace with the current social deficit challenges facing the country. This is leading to many unprocedural protest actions and strikes which are underpinned by violence and which, in turn, are leading to death, injury and damage to property.”

The judicial commission of inquiry into the deaths will investigate the roles played by the police, the management of the Marikana mine, Lonmin, the unions and government.