Miners won't settle for less than slice of profits: iLIVE
South African analysts are proving to be the most unimaginative and overrated people this country has had to tolerate in our ever-difficult work of managing public perception.
We have watched investors push managers to shift all costs out of company balance sheets and squeeze low-skilled labour. South Africa has also witnessed the re-energising of unions with their growing political influence, which has given workers the vigour to fight more for what they want. That in turn resulted in an inevitable clash that saw lives being lost.
Indeed, analysts are now ready to warn us about what those developments signal.
Instead of constantly analysing the country's state of affairs and power plays, time bombs explode in front of them and then they start predicting doom; how fresh.
But doom has already occurred and this is the post-doom world. Thus, right questions need to be asked.
We have to cast our imagination much further than if other mineworkers will also start demanding wage increases outside of union-negotiated agreements.
But that's hardly the big picture. Is the way we run our companies sustainable? How should the pie be sliced to reflect the fair contribution of all stakeholders for us to avoid revolutions?
Gold Fields, for example, continues to miss the point of high-stakes events, ignorantly dismissing minimum wage demands. This is an inevitable road. Workers may well be the most invested people in companies' growth than other stakeholders because their livelihoods depend on them.
Bullied at round table discussions and threatened with automation and outsourcing, unions have also lost the pulse of what pains workers. Workers will accept a minimum wage of R4000 and even less, as long as that sacrifice is shared.
Union leaders may sleep on those realities, but workers, confident in their hard labour that brings us ever closer to unearthing more gold, know what is due to them. They see others running away with golden cheques, unwilling to acknowledge the truth.
While analysts are telling us miners' salary increases will lead to a destabilised sector, we see an industry that is already destabilised.
It is destabilised by investors who are running a jackpot with our natural resources. It is destabilised by managers who don't seem to appreciate and nurture their key resource - people.
To say "wages already account for more than 60% of costs" at some platinum mines is meant to engender shock. Furthermore, such a bill may be covered by blank cheque managers.
A more meaningful statement would look at the amount of profits made out of total costs and how those profits are shared.
In an era of record profits for industries that hold safe haven commodities like gold and platinum, we should have seen such high tides of profits lifting all boats, but that, unfortunately, has not been the case.
Rock drill operators and production workers may be low-skilled labour, but they execute their mandates at great risk to their health. They also literally put their lives at risk for company profits. That this does not count at the number-crunching round tables is a shock. Such sacrifice should never go unnoticed.
Times in which workers don't earn enough to buy a stake in the company for which they toil and don't earn enough to buy what they make or unearth are a thing of the past everywhere else.
It's time to fight the right kind of fights.