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South Africa: Miners on strike say Chinese owners 'arrogant, brutal and exploiters'

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | May 22, 2019
In Orkney (North West), a group of workers are carrying out strike action in a tunnel of a gold mine 3 km deep. They accuse the Chinese owners of being "arrogant, brutal and exploiters" for refusing to raise their wages.
South African workers
African workers   South African workers
The underground strike of 69 workers including 14 women began on May 18 and is involving two departments of the South African government and the National Union of Mines (National Union of Mineworkers, Num).

The gold mine is owned by the China African Precious Metals, and a group from Shanghai holds the majority of the shares.

At the base of the protest there is the proposal of an 8% increase in the salaries of miners and a bonus for their living outside their residence. The miners, in fact, come from other regions and live in miserable company hostels. The Chinese owners refused the bonus and also the salary increase, which the local administration wanted to grant.

Num president, Joseph Montisetse, visited the strikers in the gallery and expressed concerns about their health. The union has been in dialogue for a wage increase with the owners of the company since last year.

The latest proposal from the Chinese group to end the strike is to grant the 8% increase, but only on condition that there is adequate production, and excluding the bonus. The miners refused it. For Montisetse it is "outrageous" that the Chinese owners refuse to listen to the workers' demands.

In the North West province there are about 300 active mines, which contribute 31% of the nation's GDP. Thousands of families depend on the wages of workers in the mine. 18% of the region's employment is in the mining field.