Johannesburg - Twelve weeks into the platinum sector strike, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has launched a R1 million trust fund to meet the basic needs of its members and their families.
The gesture indicates Amcu is in for the long haul and a solution may be found only after the May 7 national election.
Amcu did not answer Business Report questions about how the fund would be used to help its members at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin, who have been on strike since January 23.
However, simple calculations show that if the R1m is split between the 70 000 striking members, each would receive just over R14, which would buy two cans of baked beans or a can of sardines.
In another initiative, Amcu has hired 100 buses to transport its striking members home for the Easter weekend.
After the Easter break, Amcu plans to march to the Union Buildings and to the US embassy in Pretoria, because the platinum companies are listed on US exchanges. The union said it was waiting for the US embassy to grant permission for the march.
This comes as minority unions are chipping away at Amcu membership. The National Union of Mineworkers is reportedly accepting Amcu members and has regained recognition at Amplats.
Yesterday, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said the strike would continue because the union had explored several options to settle and platinum producers had stuck to their offer of a 9 percent increase.
“Our members have remained resolute in their demands,” Mathunjwa said.
Amcu is demanding a R12 500 monthly salary for entry-level employees after four years, and the employers have offered increases of between 7.5 percent and 9 percent a year over three years.
“This strike has not been called by Mathunjwa. I’ve been mandated by Amcu members to embark on a strike,” the union leader said. “I am a servant to the members and we have not received a mandate to call off the strike.”
He said the union had donated R1m to the strike support fund. He noted that office bearers and staff had also donated R50 000 to help members, who have lost 82 days of pay.
Mathunjwa invited individuals, NGOs and community and faith-based groups to donate to the trust.
“We call upon our democratically elected government, as a custodian of the principle of human dignity, to make donations in order to restore the human dignity that has been compromised by these capitalists,” Mathunjwa said.
Striking workers had lost R5.9 billion since the strike started. This was R70m a day, R3m an hour or R50 000 a minute, Implats spokesman Johan Theron said.
“So, the R1m strike fund, admirable as it is, will only cover losses sustained by workers for 20 minutes,” Theron said.
Labour analysts have questioned the fund, saying it was a gesture that would not address the needs of striking members.
Loane Sharp, a labour economist at Adcorp, called it a marketing ploy.
“It is a positive sign that Amcu officials are concerned about the livelihoods of their members. It indicates that the strikers are putting Amcu under pressure to return to work,” Sharp said.
Mamokgethi Molopyane, the founder and chief research analyst at Creative Voodoo Consulting, agreed, saying Amcu’s move was too late.
The fund “can also act as an appeasement offering to the members, who are beginning to express frustration at the leadership of the union for the dragging strike”, Molopyane said.
This comes as Amplats is reportedly planning to focus on its Mogalakwena mine in Limpopo rather than on its Rustenburg operations.
It has been also reported that Sibanye Gold, South Africa’s biggest gold producer, is considering acquiring platinum assets because there is limited scope for growing its gold portfolio. - Business Report