South African gold miner Gold One is advancing disciplinary hearings on suspended employees who allegedly kidnapped fellow workers underground.

Last week, the company placed 34 labourers on suspension charges relating to “participating in the sit-in underground, which turned into a hostage situation, as well as picketing on surface, which was against company instruction for all employees not to come to work during those days, as well as a violation of two court order[s] preventing any strike action”.

From 22–25 October, 550 employees were kept underground by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), according to Jon Hericourt, a Gold One spokesman. After resurfacing, some workers told South African newspaper Sowetan that they were held underground against their will. Others said it was part of a sit-in strike against Gold One for not recognising the AMCU.

Ziyaad Hassam, head of legal at Gold One, said disciplinary hearings against the strikers were expected to start later this week. He stated: “All hearings are planned to be individually conducted, with external chairpersons overseeing proceedings, where necessary.”

Gold One is in a closed-shop agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which allows it to be the only union representing workers in the company. The ACMU claims to have more members than the NUM and, therefore, wants to represent the workers and be awarded organisational rights.

A worker, who was part of the underground sit-in and wished to remain anonymous, told the Sowetan: “It is nonsense that the company is disciplining workers for fighting for their rights. The suspensions are sending a message that we as workers do not have rights in this company. Workers are not happy. The people who have been suspended were chosen by us workers to be our leaders.”

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By GlobalData