Gordhan plays down Amcu strike impact

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Independent Newspapers

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Photo: Neil Baynes

Johannesburg - The union leading a 14-week-old strike at the world’s biggest platinum producers said it intends to outline its strategy on May 2, as South Africa’s finance minister played down the walkout’s effect on the economy.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, whose talks with companies broke down last week, plans a press conference, President Joseph Mathunjwa said in a phone interview.

Pravin Gordhan, the minister, said the strike “will not be a massive impact.”

Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin are bypassing the union and putting their latest pay offer directly to workers, using text messages and radio commercials.

Miners the union has consulted have rejected the proposal, Mathunjwa said.

The three companies are offering to raise monthly wages, including bonuses and living allowances, to 12,500 rand by 2017, or as much as 10 percent annually.

The AMCU wants basic monthly pay, excluding bonuses, of 12,500 rand in four years.

The inflation rate was 6 percent in March.

Mathunjwa said the companies are “flouting labour relations” and causing division among workers by not communicating through the union.

The labour action, started by more than 70,000 AMCU members on January 23, has cost the companies about 15.5 billion rand in lost revenue and workers 6.9 billion rand in income, the platinum producers said.

The country accounts for about 70 percent of global supplies of mined platinum.

 

‘Some Impact’

 

The strike’s effect on South Africa’s economy “will not be a massive impact, it will have some impact,” Gordhan said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg TV Africa’s Eleni Giokos.

“We seem to have a few months, or a few weeks of leeway during which we hope they come to the right decisions and help themselves and the country as a whole,” he said.

South Africans vote in national elections on May 7.

Impala and Lonmin intend to have collected significant responses from workers to the offer by the end of the week.

More than half of Lonmin employees responding to text messages last weekend indicated that they want to return to work, Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for the company, said by phone.

Mathunjwa said approaching his members directly was a “divide and rule” tactic.

“These workers are organised; They should work through the union not individual members.” he said.

The approach taken by the companies is “dangerous” and goes against the principles of collective bargaining with the workforce as a whole, Livhuwani Mammburu, acting spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, said by phone.

Members of the NUM, which was usurped by the AMCU as the dominant union at the platinum producers, aren’t on strike and wish to return to work, Mammburu said.

“We’re just worried about people being intimidated.” - Bloomberg News


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