South Africa platinum stike talks break down

5th February 2014, Comments 0 comments

South African platinum producers said that talks aimed at ending a crippling two-week-old strike by miners had broken down Wednesday, with no date set for further negotiations.

Government-brokered talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) "have been adjourned as the parties have been unable to reach a settlement," three top producers said in a statement.

Blasting AMCU for unwillingness to negotiate, the CEO's of Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats) and Lonmin said the union's demand of a minimum $1,125 monthly wage was not feasible.

"Acceding to AMCU's demands -- which have not shifted since negotiations began -- is simply not feasible, and would effectively mean a doubling of the industry's wage bill," they said.

Employers had offered to raise salaries by a minimum of seven percent each year for three years.

Around 80,000 members of the AMCU downed tools on January 23.

Union president Joseph Mathunjwa had hinted earlier Wednesday that a proposal from independent mediators could provide a way forward.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) did not publish its plan.

"Once the employer concedes to the proposal of the CCMA, that would unlock the engagement to be taken to the next level," Mathunjwa said.

Mathunjwa vowed the stoppages would carry on until a deal is reached.

"We will continue the strike until the workers give us a mandate. They are still saying it is too early for them. They want the status quo to change."

Workers are outraged at rampant inequality in Africa's largest economy, and the high salaries of company bosses in proportion to other workers.

But the firms stressed such dramatic hikes are impossible, claiming the strike had already cost the South African economy $360 million.

That claim could not be independently verified.

"Prolonged strike action will result in more losses, and a further restructuring of the platinum sector," the firms said.

South Africa's northern platinum belt has been the scene of work-related bloodshed since some 34 platinum miners were shot dead by police during a strike at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August 2012.

On Tuesday police said they used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse 3,000 "violent" striking AMCU miners.

The violent strikes have hit investor confidence in South Africa, which is estimated to produce as much as 80 percent of the world's platinum.

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant on Wednesday called for an end to violence and for "all the parties to commit to an early resolution of the impasse."

"Violence and intimidation cannot be condoned and law enforcement should take the necessary steps to protect lives and property," she said.

She also warned that "after a certain period of sustained action, the strike ceases to be a weapon for workers interests but an arrow that inflicts pain and wounds in the workers themselves."

© 2014 AFP

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