Mon Dec 05 16:32:43 CAT 2016

Revolt over low wages

TJ STRYDOM and QUINTON MTYALA | 2012-11-12 00:48:10.02 Comments
A protester flings a rock in a homemade sling made from a tie at police during a protest at Anglo Platinum's Jabulani Mine's Khuseleka Shaft 1. The protesters are demanding to be reinstated with a higher wage after Anglo Platinum dismissed 12 000 of it's employees earlier this month. 30 October 2012. Picture: DANIEL BORN/ THE TIMES

Thousands of Anglo Platinum mineworkers say they would "rather die" than return to work today.

The workers have been striking for eight weeks over wages.

Last week, Amplats tabled a once-off R4500 payment offerif workers returned to work today.

It said the offer, which would cost the mining company more than R2-billion, would be retracted should workers fail to report for duty this morning.

Last month, the company fired 12000 workers who went on an illegal work stoppage at its Rustenburg mines.

Evans Ramokga, who represents the striking workers, said yesterday that no one would go back to work today and that the strike would continue.

"We're not happy with some of the conditions on offer, such as final warnings and threats of disciplinary action against dismissed workers.''

Striking miners are demanding a basicR16000-a-month salary, a demand mine bosses said would be difficult to afford. They said it could also lead to layoffs.

Last week, Amplats offered incentives that included a once-off hardship payment of R2000. But the workers turned them down, saying management should match the 22% salary increase granted by Lonmin in August.

The Lonmin deal came after a standoff that ended with police killing 34 miners.

Amplats' parent company, Anglo American, last week placed four of its Rustenburg mines "under review", a move seen as a possible closure of the mines.

The mining sector has in recent months been rocked by violent wildcat strikes that led to killings and destruction of infrastructure. With a deal secured in the gold sector, the platinum mines remain on the boil.

Trade union federation Cosatu warned that the Western Cape farmworkers strike could spread to other areas if a wage agreement was not reached soon. It's Western Cape secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, said the government and farmers would have to adjust the minimum wage of farm workers.

The farmworkers are demanding R150-a-day wage, but negotiations between them, labour unions and Minister of Agriculture Tina Joemat-Petterssen to resolve the violent pay dispute remain deadlocked.

At the weekend, Agri-Western Cape said it had no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the farmers. But its spokesman, Porchia Adams, insisted the average of R71 a day the workers were currently being paid was above the national minimum wage.

Farmers had earlier agreed to pay their workers R80 a day but this was rejected.

Tomorrow, Joemat-Petterssen will meet national farming bodies and the Department of Labour to possibly revise the minimum wages for farm-workers.

The workers are also demanding free basic electricity and an end to illegal evictions, employment of illegal immigrants and the use of labour brokers.

Joemat-Petterssen's spokes- man, Palesa Mokomele, said the minister was hopeful a breakthrough would be reached after last week's violent protests that led to the N1 being barricaded, shops looted and non-striking workers attacked.

Moneyweb reported last week that experts at a meeting of the SA Savings Institute agreed that, should the country's wider unsecured market destabilise, it would be as a result of over-indebtedness in the lower income segment.

Many economists expect the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates next year, which would squeeze those with debt even further.

The prices of electricity and fuel have risen sharply as Eskom rolled out tariff increases and crude oil has rallied.

Basic foodstuffs such as maize have become more expensive following a drought in the US.

Low-income earners are hit hardest by such increases as they spend a large portion of their income on food and transport. Farmworkers are among these low-income earners. - Additional reporting by Reuters

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Revolt over low wages

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