Amcu gets the elbow

25 April 2014 - 08:15 By TJ STRYDOM
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa addresses members. File photo.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa addresses members. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times

In an attempt to end the biggest strike ever in the South African mining sector, platinum producers will take their new wage offer direct to the workers.

Wage talks between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum and Lonmin have stalled.

More than 70000 platinum miners will again miss out when most of the country's 10.7 million workers get paid today. The strike entered its 14th week this week.

"We strongly urge the Amcu leadership to take this fair settlement offer to their members and let them decide," said Amplats CEO Chris Griffith, Impala CEO Terence Goodlace and Lonmin CEO Ben Magara.

They indicated that should the union fail to do this, they might have to sidestep it and approach the workers direct, saying they had a "duty to provide the details of the settlement offer " to them.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa did not respond to requests for comment.

Impala spokesman Johan Theron said this week's talks were aimed at going through the settlement offer step by step and to discuss its possible restructuring.

"But it became clear that Amcu simply wanted more," he said.

The world's three biggest platinum mining companies have stood by the settlement offer they tabled eight days ago.

The offer would result in entry-level workers earning R12500 a month by 2017.

"We have ways of getting in touch with our people," said Theron. He said the companies would explain the offer to employees via SMS, websites and noticeboards.

In February, the production of platinum group metals was 35.8% lower than a year ago, according to Stats SA. The strike, which began in the fourth week of January, has cost Amplats alone 185000 ounces in lost production, Anglo American said yesterday.

The effects of the strike are being felt by South Africa's trading partners. Last month, Switzerland's platinum imports slumped as shipments of raw metal from South Africa plummeted to their lowest level in more than five years, Reuters reported yesterday.

Raw platinum exports to Switzerland fell to 157kg, their lowest of any month since July 2008 and down 95% year-on-year.

The platinum producers have been able to sell their stockpiles to their regular clients but the length of the strike has depleted those stocks.

By yesterday afternoon, the three companies had suffered revenue losses amounting to R14.6-billion. That is enough to build another FNB Stadium and other World Cup stadiums such as Greenpoint, Moses Mabhida in Durban, Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth and Mbombela in Mpumalanga.

"The producers urged Amcu's leadership to consider the economic position of the industry and the companies, and the dire circumstances of employees, and to recommend the settlement offer made by the producers to their members," the companies said.

A shack used as an ANC branch office was set alight at Nkaneng informal settlement, near Marikana, yesterday, police said.