S. Africa Strikers Ask Owners to Keep Police Out of Mines

From Times Wire Services

Leaders of striking black miners met mine bosses Monday for talks aimed at defusing violence stemming from the nationwide strike.

Leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers, meeting with Anglo American Corp. officials for the first time in the eight-day strike, asked that police be kept out of mine compounds. The 300,000-member black miners' union also said that mine security officers should be confined to barracks and that charges against arrested strikers be dropped.

About 240 strikers have been injured and 200 arrested during the action against gold and coal mines by the union in a dispute over wages. Four of its leaders, at Anglo American's invitation, conferred for more than three hours Monday with company executives on ways to reduce violence.

No agreement was reached. The talks were adjourned until today.

The meeting came hours after the collapse of a planned strike by another black union against SASOL, the state-run coal, oil and gas company. The Chemical Workers Industrial Union, which had hoped 15,000 members would strike early Monday, abandoned its plans after a clash Sunday between strike supporters and opponents in which at least one worker was killed.

Talks on violence in the mine strike were proposed by Anglo American, the company worst hit by the strike and the one allowing greatest access to union organizers. Four union officials, including General Secretary Cyril Ramaphosa, sat across a table from a six-member Anglo American delegation led by industrial relations manager Bobby Godsell.

Anglo American has proposed that both sides avoid the use of force, allow normal access to workers' hostels and mine shafts and agree not to interfere with peaceful picketing or with employees continuing to work.

The union, in addition to demanding restraints on security forces at the mines, said an independent arbitrator should be chosen to settle alleged breaches of any agreement that is reached.

After the session, Ramaphosa said the union was prepared to accept Anglo American's proposals if the company agreed to union suggestions.

Labor experts estimate 335,000 miners are striking. The union puts the number at 340,000 while a statement issued by the owners' Chamber of Mines put the figure at about 230,000.

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