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S African miners unlikely to join sympathy strike

Filed on June 11, 2007

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s biggest mine workers union said on Monday most of its members would probably not be able to join a sympathy strike planned for Wednesday in support of striking civil servants.

‘We have been consulting with our lawyers, but so far we have not found a legal mechanism,’ National Union of Mineworkers Deputy Secretary General Oupa Komane told Reuters on the sidelines of a mining seminar.

‘It’s very unlikely that we’ll be able to participate (in the sympathy strike).’

Although members in the private mining sector would likely be barred from downing tools, those who worked for power utility Eskom would be able to participate because the firm was a state enterprise, he added.

Mine workers would support the striking civil servants on Wednesday by joining in demonstrations when they were not on shift duty or during meal breaks, Komane added.

The mining sector in South Africa -- the world’s biggest producer of gold, platinum and ferrochrome -- employs nearly 460,000 workers and accounts for 52 percent of the country’s direct and indirect merchandise exports.

South Africa’s COSATU labour federation, which represents more than a million workers in key sectors including mining and manufacturing, told all its members last week to prepare to strike on Wednesday to support civil servant unions.

The public sector workers’ strike began on June 1 and has crippled government hospitals and schools across the country.

South Africa’s government vowed on Sunday to press ahead with firing striking essential workers as the action entered its second week.

Workers want a 10 percent pay increase, scaled down from an initial 12 percent. The government is offering 6.5 percent, but unions say this only just keeps pace with consumer inflation of over six percent in April.

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