S.Africa platinum strike causing ‘irreparable’ harm
South Africa's platinum producers Monday said a two-month strike was causing "irreparable" damage to the sector, which has to date lost nearly a billion dollars in revenue.
The strike over wages which started over eight weeks ago has halted production at the world’s top three producers, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
“The extended strike in the platinum belt is unprecedented, and at a stage where some of its impacts are becoming irreparable,” the chief executives of the three companies said in a joint statement.
They said the strike has so far resulted in “close to 10 billion rand ($920 million) in revenue lost.”
Employees have lost around 4.4 billion rand ($406 million) in earnings, they said.
“Mines and shafts are becoming unviable; people are hungry; children are not going to school; businesses are closing and crime in the platinum belt is increasing,” the statement said.
Tens of thousands of members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) downed tools on January 23, demanding that their minimum wage be doubled.
The platinum companies have maintained that the demand is simply unrealistic and have suggested staggered increases of seven to nine percent over the next three years, which the union has rejected.
The wage demand of around $1,125 – which the union is sticking to – was at the centre of the 2012 deadly strike at Lonmin, when police killed 34 Marikana mineworkers on August 16, 2012.
The union claims the current salaries offered by the mining industry perpetuate apartheid-era inequalities.
Weeks of government-mediated talks aimed at ending the strike fell apart early this month.
But the mining bosses said they remained open and committed to “dialogue” with the unions.
A rival union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), has waded into the standoff.
The NUM said that while it supports demands for pay increases “we believe that it is irresponsible to take workers on such a long strike where there are no prospects of achieving the demands.”
The platinum industry has been hit by intermittent strikes over wages since 2011.
South Africa holds around 80 percent of the world’s known platinum reserves.