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Glencore fires 1,000 workers over strikes in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG: Glencore Xstrata sacked 1,000 workers across three of its chrome mines in South Africa for going an illegal strike last week that brought those operations to a standstill, the company said.

The dispute at the mines near Steelpoort, northeast of Johannesburg in Limpopo province, added to long-running friction in the mining industry that has caused production to slow, raised concerns about Africa’s largest economy and sent the rand to fresh four-year lows.

“About 1,000 of the employees who have participated in the unprotected (illegal) strike have been dismissed,” said Christopher Tsatsawane, a spokesman for the company’s chrome operations.

The strike, which started last Tuesday, was continuing, but supplies to customers were not yet affected, he added.

The workers have until 04 June to appeal the dismissals.

South Africa has well-defined processes for launching strikes and those who fail to get formal approval can be sacked.

But employers often hire back most or all the workers they fire. The dismissals are seen as a hard-ball tactic to force labour into making a deal.

The miners, most of whom belong to the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), stopped work in solidarity with an individual who claims he was assaulted by a shift supervisor, the company said last week.

Talks over the weekend between AMCU and the company failed to end the dispute and no other meetings were scheduled at this stage, Tsatsawane added.

Dismissal of workers is likely to anger trade unions, already embroiled in a turf war as they head into wage negations in the coming weeks.

South Africa, home to around 75 per cent of the world’s chromite reserves, has become a flashpoint of violent labour strife as AMCU and the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as they battle for members.