An on-going industrial conflict escalated into tragedy yesterday as police opened fire on a group of protesting workers at the Marikana Mine and surrounding area in Rustenburg, South Africa, about 50 miles from Johannesburg. The platinum mine is owned by U.K.-based Lonmin. The violence has taken 38 lives and injured more than 75 people.
The AFL-CIO extends deep condolences to the families and friends of all those who have lost their lives in this latest violence. The AFL-CIO also joins global unions International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), IndustriALL and South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in calling for calm to return to the platinum mine and demanding a full and thorough investigation from law enforcement. Lonmin needs to ensure calm and safety is restored so that miners can return to work.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a former mine worker himself, was appalled by yesterday’s events at the Marikana Mine:
Once again, mineworkers who produce so much wealth under often dangerous daily working conditions have paid the highest price—their lives— in a completely avoidable industrial conflict. We send our deepest condolences to the families of these workers and call on the South African government to take immediate action to address the brutality.
The Central Executive Committee of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) will convene an urgent meeting of the unions’ leadership to discuss a coordinated strategy among its affiliates to strengthen their response to this tragedy and challenge to workers’ unity and strength.