‘Workers give Amcu the mandate’

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Amcu

Independent Newspapers.

Association of mineworkers and construction union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse.

Johannesburg - Amcu's stance in the wage dispute in the platinum sector is driven by workers and not union leaders, the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) said on Monday.

“Their positions that they take in these discussions are not driven by (president) Joseph Mathunjwa... but are driven by a mandate which they go back to their workers on,” director Brian Ashley told reporters in Johannesburg.

“This is not the National Union of Mineworkers that has a practice of giving leadership quite a wide range in negotiations.”

Ashley said no settlement to the strike had been found yet.

AIDC is advising the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) during its strike.

Ashley said discussions between the different sides were “extremely difficult”.

The centre's impression of employers Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Lonmin, and Impala Platinum (Implats), since becoming actively involved in the dispute in April, was that the companies were negotiating in bad faith.

“Our experience is bad faith negotiations, not providing data, saying one thing one day and revoking it the next day and then not responding to the points that we make,” he said.

Amcu members at the three companies downed tools on January 23, demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500.

They rejected an offer by the companies that would bring their pay to R12,500 by 2017.

Ashley said the companies were offering an increase of around R800 on basic wages, while Amcu wanted an increase of around R1800.

“Of course, if you are at R800 and your demand is at R1800 then of course in negotiations you are going to try find a compromise between these two big amounts,” he said.

“That's where we have been in the negotiations, trying to find an acceptable compromise in these terms.”

Ashley said Amcu's wage demand could have already been met if producers had not sold metals at below market prices.

“Lonmin had been systematically, over a 10-year period, bar one or two years, underselling their metals,” he said.

“We are not alleging any illegal activity of the three companies. We are looking at the issue of affordability.”

The AIDC had been commissioned by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry to look at Lonmin's financial position prior to 2012, to determine if the company could meet workers' wage demands.

The AIDC then looked at Amplats and Implats to see if they were engaging in the same practice.

“We think that these companies should be endeavouring to get maximum sales of their products,” Ashley said.

“The (forfeited) revenue, if it had been achieved, it would put the question of R12,500 off the table because... there would have been sufficient money to address the wage demands of these workers.”

By the AIDC's calculation, over the last 10 years the companies had forfeited revenue of around R15 billion from underselling metals. He said there was no clear explanation for their doing so.

Ashley could not explain why no one else apart from the AIDC had come to this conclusion, but said the centre was confident of its findings.

“We are extremely confident of the numbers that we put forward, because we've gone systematically and thoroughly through the annual reports that are available publicly,” he said.

“We are asking serious questions which help to get to an understanding of why they say they cannot afford a basic wage of R12,500.”

He said the question of underselling, beyond the platinum strike itself, also related to capital flight, which was a major problem facing the South African economy. - Sapa


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