Mines minister hopes to “put pressure” on strike talks

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Ngoako Ramatlhodi1 Independent Newspapers. Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Picture: Timothy Bernard.

Pretoria - South Africa's mining minister said on Tuesday he hoped pulling out of wage negotiations would “put pressure” on platinum producers and the Amcu union to resolve a five-month strike that threatens to pull Africa's most advanced economy into recession.

Ramatlhodi quit his role as mediator on Monday, leaving the two sides in deadlock and deepening concerns that the longest strike in South Africa's mining history could stretch on for months more.

“I'm putting pressure on them so they begin to see that I have other things to do as well,” Ramatlhodi told reporters in Pretoria. “We can't have indefinite negotiations.”

He added that the Association of Construction and Mineworkers Union (Amcu) and officials at the world's top three platinum producers have “continued to negotiate in good faith”.

About 70,000 Amcu members downed tools in January at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, demanding of a 12,500 rand a month basic wage to be achieved in four years.

Amcu's demand would mean a doubling of wages, which the companies have said is unaffordable and unrealistic as the industry already battles with high production costs.

Employers are offering pay increases of up to 10 percent, which would raise the overall minimum pay package to 12,500 rand by July 2017, although this includes cash allowances for necessities such as housing.

Ramatlhodi said the producers and the union had agreed on the 12,500 rand wage demand on Friday but the two sides could not agree on what period the figure should be reached by.

The platinum producers said in a joint statement after talks broke down on Monday that they would “review further options available to them”, but gave no further details.

The strike has hit around 40 percent of global production of the precious metal used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles.

The companies have lost almost 22 billion rand while employees have forfeited about 10 billion rand in wages, according to a live tally on an industry website (http://www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za/). - Reuters



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