Over 80,000 South African gold miners launched a strike Tuesday against what union officials call "slave wages" and employer "arrogance," bringing one of the country's key industries to a screeching halt.
The AMC government-allied National Union of Miners, which represents 64 percent of the approximately 120,000 gold miners in South Africa, declared the strike after rejecting a 6.5 percent wage increase per month, which the union slams as a pittance compared with the exorbitant bonuses bosses reward themselves. The union is demanding pay increases of 60 to 100 percent to bring their pay to a living wage in a country beset with severe wealth inequality.
"The pay that we are asking for is not high. It is normal and reasonable," said NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka. "The strike will carry on indefinitely until our demands are met," Seshoka added.
Union members are rejecting what they charge is a culture of dangerous conditions and poverty wages in South Africa's gold mines, dating back to apartheid-era exploitation and abuse of black labor, with companies continuing to dodge real accountability and reparations for their role in enforcing, and profiting from, this system of race-based oppression.
"The union is aware of the devastating impact industrial action would have on the economy which is largely a white man's economy with no benefits for poor black mineworkers," NUM officials declared in a statement.
Last year, scores of striking miners were massacred by South African security forces in their biggest show of force since the apartheid era. Despite the killings, these workers stayed on strike, winning key demands and playing a role in inspiring a surge of labor organizing and protest in South Africa's notoriously dangerous mines and across industries.
The miner's strike comes as work stoppages rock the car manufacturing and construction sectors.