Hearings to shed light on underground hostage at Gold One

Gold One Modder East Operations mine is expected to have its number of suspended employees rise to 50 in the coming days, and their disciplinary hearings are expected to commence on Tuesday.

Gold One mine head of legal Ziyaad Hassam told Sunday World on Monday that 34 employees have since been suspended.

“We expect the number to rise to between 40 and 50 in the coming days,” said Hassam.

“The suspensions were for persons who had been involved in holding fellow employees underground against their will, as well as for picketing on surface despite a clear instruction to all employees to stay home, as well as two court orders interdicting any picketing or striking on mine premises.”

Hassam said video footage underground was reviewed as well as blockings of employees on surface during the period when employees were told to stay home.

“Several employees have also provided statements to the company and the SAPS [SA Police Service].

“The suspensions will remain in effect until the conclusion of their disciplinary hearings. Disciplinary hearings are expected to commence tomorrow [Tuesday], and the next steps will be determined by the outcome of the hearings.

“Statements have been provided to police by some employees, but no charges have been formally laid yet. The investigations are ongoing.”

Case of kidnapping investigated

Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili said police are investigating a case of kidnapping. She said no arrests have been made.

“Police opened a case of kidnapping against the kidnappers who are still yet to be identified,” said Muridili.

Two weeks ago, police said a group of 15 mineworkers held about 540 miners hostage underground at the Gold One mine in Springs, east of Johannesburg.

The miners were held against their will from Sunday night, October 22, until Wednesday afternoon, October 25, when they resurfaced.

At the time, Gold One said miners belonging to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) were responsible for the hostage situation.

The leadership of Amcu dismissed the comments and stated that the workers had staged a sit-in underground.

The union said the miners were frustrated with the mine’s delay in recognising Amcu as their preferred trade union of choice.

Closed-shop agreement

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

“The current closed-shop agreement is with the NUM. Amcu has submitted a petition on behalf of several employees to terminate the closed-shop agreement,” said Hassam.

“[The] NUM must now conduct a ballot to determine how many of its members remain in favour of the closed-shop agreement.

“The company will assist in ensuring the fairness of any such ballot, and the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] will be asked to facilitate it.”

Amcu general secretary Jeff Mphahlele maintains that no hostage situation took place.

“What was happening underground was a voluntary sit-in and strike. The miners were sitting for organisational rights to be recognised by the mine,” said Mphahlele.

“The mining group currently employs a total of 1 870 workers. A total of 1 700 members have indicated that they want to join Amcu.

“We have submitted their stop-order forms but this mine has been protecting one union, the NUM. Our request [for the miners to join Amcu] has not been granted.”

Mphahlele said Amcu has given Gold One a deadline of when the ballot process should take place, failure to do so will result in the union taking legal action against the mining group.

Mphahlele said he could not remember the exact date of the deadline.

“We are not yet a recognised union. We are monitoring the situation from a distance legally. We are waiting to see what will happen with regards to this ballot.

“The ballot is a non-starter. It will not happen fairly if it is done by the mine and the NUM. But we will monitor the process.

“We have given the mine a deadline. If they do not meet it, we will take them to court. This is an urgent matter,” said Mphahlele.

NUM will conduct ballot legally

NUM acting regional secretary Mlulameli Mweli said the union is committed to conducting the ballot.

“We are relieved that all miners resurfaced. We are not opposed to any process done legally,” said Mweli.

“We will do the ballot legally, not because Amcu is pushing us. Amcu is running away from processes.”

He said the union will also assist the suspended employees.

“Those are our members. We will wait for them to come to us and ask for representation in their disciplinary hearings.”

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