THE National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) yesterday rubbished the “victory” claimed by the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) in the five-month platinum belt strike, and instead lamented its impact on workers, communities and the economy.
In a statement, titled “Hollow victory whose sham is shrouded by exhaustion and rhetoric”, the NUM noted that Amcu had failed to deliver on its promise of a R12 500 salary despite the protracted strike.
“This shameful retreat was imposed by the fact that some striking workers had become financially desperate and had already started taking the risk of going to work after companies contacted them against Amcu’s will,” the NUM said.
The union also noted that, compared with employers, the mineworkers were the losers.
“No single employer is counted amongst the dead and the displaced during the strike.”
Instead, the 70 000 striking Amcu members had sacrificed between R42 501 and R52 000 each, only to gain R932 a month, which was not worth celebrating, the NUM said.
“Workers were killed to enforce solidarity, which was unnecessary and unjustifiable. No sound-minded leader of the workers would celebrate such consequences and human costs with long-term effects.”
The union’s comments indicated how it was vying for the attention of employees after being toppled from its position as the majority union in the platinum belt by Amcu in 2012, some analysts noted.
Mamokegthi Rea Molopyane, the founder and chief analyst at Creative Voodoo Consulting, said the statement was part of the NUM strategy to undermine the gains achieved by Amcu. Tensions between them were inevitable as they were expected to scramble for the attention of employees in the sector, Molopyane said.
“The NUM is no longer the majority union in the platinum belt.
It will be foolish to say there will be no union rivalry. The NUM will want to re-establish itself and there is bound to be friction because both parties are trying to get the attention of mineworkers,” he said.
The union’s views contradicted congratulatory messages sent by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the NUM’s fellow Cosatu affiliate.
Numsa, which is planning to strike in the metals sector, praised the mineworkers for the historic settlement.
“This settlement is not only a victory for mineworkers, but for workers in South Africa as a whole,” Numsa said.
Amcu and Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) signed a three-year wage agreement on Tuesday in which the lowest-paid underground employees will receive an increase of R1 000 in their monthly salary in each of the first two years.
At Lonmin the same increase will apply in the third year, whereas at the other two companies the increase in the third year will be R950.
Attendance yesterday was 83 percent at Impala, 90 percent at Amplats and 85 percent at Lonmin, Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the producers, told Bloomberg. Workers returned to work on Wednesday.