Over 500 South African miners have been trapped underground for more than 36 hours due to a standoff between rival unions.
In this case, two opposing unions are at the center of the issue. On one side is NUM, founded in 1982 by President Cyril Ramaphosa and known for its close ties to management. On the other side is AMCU, the rival union that directly confronted NUM during the 2012 Marikana massacre when miners went on strike demanding higher wages.
According to Gold One, the mining company, and the NUM union, the workers are trapped due to the demands of the AMCU union, which insists on being recognized by the company operating a gold mine in Springs, a suburb in the eastern outskirts of Johannesburg. The AMCU, however, denies holding the miners against their will, stating that they are participating in a “sit-in” protest.
AMCU activists are demanding recognition as the official union within the Gold One company. They accuse the management of only listening to the NUM union, which is negotiating independently to the detriment of the miners.
The AMCU claims that an overwhelming majority of miners have signed up to join their union but are yet to receive official representation. They believe this is the reason behind the ongoing labor action. “The workers will only come out when they have obtained their organizational rights,” said AMCU’s regional secretary, Tladi Mokwena.
NUM has called for police intervention, while Gold One has characterized the situation as a hostage-taking incident and expressed deep concern.