S.Africa union threatens strike in platinum sector

15th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) on Wednesday threatened a sector-wide strike at platinum mines over pay demands.

The union said it was consulting members at top global platinum producers on downing tools after workers at Impala Platinum voted in favour of a walk-out.

"The process of obtaining and confirming mandate is continuing at Anglo American Platinum as well as at Lonmin," union president Joseph Mathunjwa told journalists.

AMCU treasurer Jimmy Gama said the strike would definitely go ahead at Implats.

"The mandate has been given at Impala. There will be a strike," he told AFP.

The union had withdrawn an earlier 8,500 rand ($780) salary settlement offer to the mine and is demanding a 12,500 rand ($1150) entry-level wage, Gama added.

The 100,000-member union would also strike at gold mines where it is the minority labour grouping, said Gama after members had voted in favour of downing tools.

AMCU has emerged as the dominant union at the biggest platinum mines in the country in the last two years, drawing members with its demands for a minimum monthly wage of 12,500 rand.

"That 12,500 rand is nothing compared to these (companies') profits," said Mathunjwa.

AMCU claims the current entry-level wage is around 5,000 rand, though gold and platinum producers give higher figures.

Sector-wide strikes would cripple platinum mining in the country, which produces 80 percent of the world's supply.

Stoppages could also hamper gold mining, where AMCU is the minority union but has strong support at the largest operations of South Africa's main gold firms Sibanye Gold, Harmony, and AngloGold Ashanti.

It has rejected eight-percent wage increases offered by platinum and gold producers.

Meanwhile its rival the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), deposed in the platinum sector but still the majority in the gold sector, has accepted the offer.

Mathunjwa declined to confirm plans of coordinated sector-wide strikes, insisting that branches work independently at the different mines.

© 2014 AFP

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