Home News South Africa union unyielding on platinum strike

South Africa union unyielding on platinum strike

Published on 20/02/2014

There seemed to be no end in sight for South Africa's platinum sector strike, now in its fifth week, as union workers hardened their opposition to a wage offer Thursday.

Hours after top platinum mines issued a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union said it would achieve its demand for a minimum wage of $1,125 “however necessary”.

“We are encouraged by the determination of our members to confront capital head on and demand what is just and equitable,” the union said in a statement.

Companies say the union’s demands could spell unaffordable wage increases of up to 150 percent. They are instead offering a seven to nine percent pay increase in each of the next three years.

On Wednesday, companies appeared to be unyielding in their wage offer, hinting at possible job loses if the strike continues.

The companies also accused AMCU of negotiating in bad faith, saying “it was not possible to negotiate if only one party ever moves and the other party maintains its position.”

They claim they have lost a collective $400 million (4.4 billion rand) since the strike began. South Africa holds around 80 percent of the world’s known platinum reserves.

AMCU responded on Thursday by threatening to step up its protests and demanding chief executives be present during talks.

“In the coming weeks we will be engaging in marches to mining houses and government departments to deliver… our demands.

“We will coordinate campaigns locally and to the international community where we will unravel the extent of exploitation in South Africa at the hands of these multi-national companies.”

Tens of thousands of AMCU members downed tools on January 23, in a strike that the union says was a culmination of the 2012 wage dispute, which led to the massacre of workers by police in August.

This year’s strike action has not led to the levels of violence seen in 2012, but incidents have been reported in the Rustenburg mining belt.

Last week, Anglo American Platinum said it was suing a trade union for property damages and losses worth 591 million rands ($54 million, 40 million euros) suffered during stoppages.

“The litigation from Amplats is a last ditch attempt to declare the protected strike action by AMCU as illegal,” said AMCU.

AMCU official Jimmy Gama said the union will on Thursday meet with the mediators to discuss their position on the current offer, after consulting with the workers.

“Today we will meet with the CCMA to table our revised position on the latest wage offer,” said Gama.

Gama could not give more details about the meeting.