Johannesburg - Support for Amcu's four-week wage strike in the platinum mining sector increased on Wednesday as the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) rallied behind the union.
“We, the undersigned organisations and individuals, wish to express our dismay at the two most recent attacks on Amcu and miners who are striking for a living wage,” Nactu said in a statement.
“The decision by Amplats to sue Amcu for R591 million for damages related to the ongoing strike action is another attempt by employers not only to break the miners' strike, but also to deal a savage blow against militant unions.”
Mining giant Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said on Saturday it would sue Amcu for damages and losses suffered during the work stoppage.
“The provisional quantum of the damages claim is about R591m, although as Amcu's wrongful conduct is continuing the damages will continue to accrue,” Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said at the time.
On Monday morning, Amplats said it was losing about R100m a day because of the strike, which was in its fourth week.
“The company is losing 4000oz amounting to R100m in revenue daily,” Sithole said in an e-mail.
Nactu said the unwillingness of Amplats to negotiate, and instead approaching the courts, was the same approach that had led to the “Marikana massacre”.
“Workers stood firm in the face of violence by the state and capital. Now the mining companies are using other means to bring workers to their knees,” said Nactu.
On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking Lonmin miners, were shot dead and 78 wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near its mine in Marikana, North West.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the strike-related violence.
On Monday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union continued discussions with the CCMA to try and resolve a pay strike crippling the platinum mining sector.
“As a result of the engagement, Amcu has convened a meeting of its leadership structures to consult and explore the way forward,” the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration said in a statement at the time.
The Amcu meeting would take place on Tuesday. Amcu had agreed to provide the CCMA with feedback on Wednesday.
Members of Amcu at Lonmin, Amplats, and Impala Platinum went on strike on January 23, demanding a R12,500 basic monthly salary for miners.
The platinum producers proposed a three-year agreement last month.
The proposal was a nine percent increase for A-level workers, 8.5 percent for B-level and 7.5 percent for C-level workers in the first year.
The CCMA has been mediating talks between the union and the platinum companies since January 24.
On February 5 the talks were adjourned for the CCMA to engage with the parties individually.
Nactu said Amcu's demands were reasonable and said court proceedings would be an attack on the working class in general.
“Amcu's demand for a living wage of R12,500 is a legitimate demand that Amplats and the other platinum producers need to seriously engage in negotiations rather than sowing further divisions by attempting to bankrupt the union,” Nactu said.
Nactu said it would wait until Amcu finished discussions with its members before it planned a way forward. - Sapa