Wage talks in platinum sector

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AngloPlatStrike Reuters.

Johannesburg - Wage talks aimed at ending a crippling three-month strike by platinum miners resumed on Tuesday between the world's top three producers of the precious metal and South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Following are some facts and figures about the union's demands, wages in the sector and offers on the table from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.

PAY STRUCTURE

South Africa's mining industry pays a basic wage augmented by various allowances, bonuses and benefits.

The basic wage, allowances - usually for housing and holidays - and bonuses comprise the “total cash remuneration”.

On top of that are benefits, such as medical insurance, covered by the companies.

UNION DEMANDS

Amcu initially demanded a more than doubling of the basic pay of entry-level workers to 12,500 rand a month under the populist battle cry of a “living wage”.

It has since scaled back the demand and said it is prepared to accept annual increases of about 30 percent that would reach the 12,500 rand goal in three years.

LATEST PRODUCERS' OFFER

The latest offer by the trio of producers is for basic pay increases of up to 10 percent.

In a detailed breakdown for its own workforce, Implats says this will bring the minimum basic pay to 9,250 rand a month by July 2017.

The total minimum cash remuneration from the offer would be 12,521 rand a month by July 2017.

This could allow Amcu leaders to save face if the offer is accepted, given that it does contain the 12,500 rand figure.

When medical and retirement benefits are added, the total guaranteed package in three years would be just short of 15,000 rand a month.

On top of that, employees can earn bonuses of up to 100 percent of their basic pay.

A LIVING WAGE?

Calculating a “living wage” - an emotive phrase that echoes demands made over the decades by black South African mine workers - is no easy task.

The figure of 12,500 rand has special resonance because it is what Amcu's striking members at Lonmin's Marikana mine were seeking when 34 of them were shot dead by police in August 2012 in the deadliest single post-apartheid security incident.

The issue is complicated by many variables and the difficulty of defining fair pay for work that may require only low levels of skill but is physically demanding and dangerous.

Another key factor is global platinum prices and what companies can afford to pay and remain profitable.

South Africa's mine workers have about eight dependents on average, the National Union of Mineworkers and industry sources have said.

A rough estimate calculated by Reuters last year found that the minimum wage just met the basic nutritional and other essentials of such a family. - Reuters



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