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Threats Of Dismissal Breaking SAfrica's Strikes

AngloGold Ashanti, also badly hit by wildcat strike action, Wednesday fired 12,000 workers who did not report for work at its operations outside Johannesburg, according to Alan Fine, a spokesman for the company. The company reported Wednesday that "unprotected strikes" at its Vaal River operations had ended after all the workers there responded to a "recently improved wage offer made through the industry's collective bargaining framework."

Evans Ramokga, a strike leader at the Amplats strike and one of the 12,000 dismissed workers, said Thursday that getting their jobs back was now a priority. The fired workers had expected to be paid Wednesday, Ramokga said, but there was nothing in the bank.

"We understand the consequences," he said, adding that they are now prepared to settle for 12,500 rand (about $1,400) in monthly pay.

Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for Amplats, said that only about 20 percent of the company's employees are back at work. "Anglo American Platinum confirms that while it retains its stated position that it will not reinstate the 12,000 dismissed Rustenburg employees, the company has agreed with its recognized unions that it is willing to discuss their status as part of this engagement," Sithole said in a statement.

Lunsche of Gold Fields said that without taking a firm stand employers would have been up against "collective anarchy" of the sort that would have set a bad precedent for labor relations in South Africa's crucial mining sector.

At the peak of the wildcat strikes more than 80,000 workers â¿¿ representing 16 percent of the mining workforce â¿¿ stopped work in labor unrest that analysts said undermined the country's reputation in the eyes of investors. The credit rating agencies Moody's and S&P's have downgraded South Africa's credit rating, citing the impact of the strikes on the country's economic outlook. South African President Jacob Zuma said recently that strike action in gold and platinum mines had cost the country about 4.5 billion rand (more than $500 million) in lost output by mid-September.

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