More than 12,000 striking workers are set to lose their jobs at a gold mine in South Africa, despite managers’ insistence they are still trying to bring an end to the impasse.
Miners at the AngloGold Ashanti facility in Carletonville defied orders to return to work by noon on Wednesday and end a strike called to demand higher pay and better working conditions.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Alan Fine, a spokesman for AngloGold Ashanti, said that the dismissals were “a drawn-out process”.
“In the meanwhile, we have been and continue to engage with strike leaders and attempt to reach an agreement for a return to work at the earliest opportunity,” he said.
|AngloGold Ashanti spokesman Alan Fine
speaks to Al Jazeera from Johannesburg
“We think that the improvements we’ve offered … that seems to us to be a reasonable basis for a return to work and a return to normality.”
But the deal, set out last week, has been rejected by many of the striking workers.
“Management is not prepared to meet us halfway,” said miner Rogers Mohlabane. “They are coming with peanuts and workers aren’t happy.”
Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Carletonville, said: “Government officials and union leaders are meeting to try and end the strikes in the mining sector.
“But many workers are defiant, saying they are not going back to work until they get their pay increase.”
Roger Letswalo, a miner at Ashanti, said: “We demanded R18,500 ($2,100) from the management and then for how much we will settle, that is going to be the outcome of the negotiations now.”
Many miners earn the equivalent of $500 a month.
“We are mine workers and we are working in a dangerous job, and we earn nothing at the end of the month,” gold miner Maseti Masixole told Al Jazeera. “That is why we are on strike.”
On Tuesday, about 8,500 striking workers were fired at the nearby Goldfields KDC East mine.
Rival bullion producer Harmony Gold is using similar tactics, promising to fire strikers if they do not return by Thursday.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s top producer of platinum, fired 12,000 workers earlier this month.
Amplats’ decision proved controversial, with South Africa’s trade federation now vowing to stage massive street protests in support of the fired miners.
South African miners have staged several large-scale protests in recent months. The protests gained international prominence after the shooting dead of 34 striking miners at the Marikana gold mine on August 16.
The widespread industrial unrest has led to a slide in the country’s currency, and resulted in two credit downgrades.
AngloGold is the world’s third-largest gold producer, with annual revenues of more than $5m.