Platinum sector at strike coalfaceComment on this story
Johannesburg - While the gold sector has received a temporary reprieve, platinum mines face another trial by fire from today.
Tens of thousands of workers down tools at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum (Implats) today as members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) begin their strike for a R12 500 a month minimum wage.
Implats announced yesterday that it had cancelled its night shift at the Rustenburg operations from last night for the duration of the strike.
“There will be employees reporting for duty in daylight so they do not have to travel in darkness,” spokeswoman Alice Lourens said.
Amcu represents about 72 percent of employees in the sector and issued gold and platinum bosses with 48-hour strike notices on Monday.
Yesterday, the union called off its strike at Sibanye Gold’s Kloof-Driefontein Complex mine, Harmony Gold’s Masimont and Kusasalethu mines and all of AngloGold Ashanti’s mines until January 30.
The Labour Court will pronounce on the Chamber of Mines’ urgent interdict against the strike then.
The chamber, representing the three gold companies, argued yesterday that the strike was illegal because the sector had already reached a wage settlement in September last year with the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and Uasa.
The chamber and Amcu made compelling arguments in the four-hour hearing.
Advocate Anton Myburgh, for the chamber argued that Amcu was a minority union in the sector, which constituted a single workplace. “You have Amcu, a dissatisfied minority. They want to have it both ways,” he said, referring to the union having benefited from the wage increase and yet calling another strike.
Paul Kennedy, SC, for Amcu, argued that the three gold firms were ganging up on Amcu, which was a minority.
“You cannot take away the constitutional right for the union to strike,” Kennedy said.
Judge Hamilton Cele said he would not be able to rule on the matter and asked for a chance to study the submissions that were made by counsel for Amcu and the chamber.
“This is not a simple matter. I think it is fair for you to give me a chance to go through the submissions that have been made,” he said.
Cele will be sitting in Cape Town next week.
Gold shares rose on the JSE yesterday after investors warmed up to the news of the suspension of the strike.
Sibanye Gold mounted 1.26 percent higher to R14.41, Harmony rose 3.38 percent to R30.88 and AngloGold Ashanti closed 1.84 percent higher at R146.65 on the JSE.
Speaking to the media after the court hearing, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa requested that members working in the gold sector report for duty today. “I am not disappointed, to us this is a victory. The strike at Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum starts tomorrow,” he told journalists.
Elize Strydom, the chief negotiator at the chamber, said it could not give assurances for those employees who did not arrive for work.
“The key now is to ensure that people are at work until we get the judgement on January 30,” she said on the sidelines of the court hearing.
North West police said yesterday that they were ready for the planned platinum strike.
“Members of the SAPS, [and] public order policing will be deployed to ensure peace and security of both the striking mineworkers and the general public,” Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said.
Strikers were not allowed to interfere with public order, destroy property or intimidate non-strikers, he added. No dangerous weapons would be allowed at gatherings during the strike. - Business Report