South African miners out on strike

A quarter of a million South African miners down tools over safety.

    Protests are going ahead despite government promises to address the problem [AFP]

    Patrick Craven, the spokesperson for the Congress of the South African Trade Unions, told Al Jazeera: "We believe that the situation is so serious that we need to do more than simply talk about this and demonstrate publicly that the current level of accidents, particularly fatal accidents, is absolutely intolerable.
    Action wanted
    "We accept that there has been a lot said about the problem, but what we need now is turn words into deeds and see some real improvements."
    There were 226 miner fatalities in 2007 up to September. This is an increase from the figure of 199 deaths in the whole of 2006.
    The rise comes despite a commitment by South Africa's mining companies to cut fatality rates by 20 per cent within six years.
    Craven said: "While there may be progress in terms of talks, meetings and agreements, there haven't been any in the actual impact on the figures, so that's our main concern.
    "In particular we're concerned that everything must be done to make safety the top priority. There must be no cutting of corners in order to meet deadlines or production targets."
    'Dripping in blood'
    Some owners have said that less than five per cent of miners have reported for duty in the country.
    Rallies have been held and many protesters in Johannesburg carried banners declaring that the owners of the country's 700 mines were "dripping in blood" by putting profit ahead of safety.
    "They put people down the mines, whatever the danger," said Toko Molale, who has been working at a platinum mine for the past 13 years.
    "Things have improved a bit, but they are still pushing production more than safety."
    On average, a South African mine worker earns about $500 a month, even after a 10 per cent increase in wages this year.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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