R12 500 in sight for strikers

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IOL pic apr22 amcu strikers gesture during rally

Reuters

Striking miners gather in Johannesburg to hear an update from Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa on March 27, 2014. File picture: Reuters

Johannesburg - The haggling between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and platinum producers over ways to end the platinum strike went on all day yesterday and continues today.

The key to ending the three-month platinum belt strike – the elusive R12 500 pay figure for entry-level miners – is now in play and the talks are now about how, not whether, the R12 500 monthly wage will be implemented.

The talks come after the country’s biggest platinum producers tabled their latest revised offer on Thursday.

A measure of the tension as both sides try to overcome a dispute that has done nothing but harm was that all players remained tight-lipped, fearful of losing whatever advantage they held.

“Talks progressed today between the producers and Amcu, and are scheduled to continue tomorrow,” Charmane Russell, the spokeswoman for the platinum companies, said yesterday.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa and national treasurer Jimmy Gama did not answer their cellphones.

A Department of Labour spokesman said it would not comment on anything, let alone reports that Minister Mildred Oliphant had been leaning on both sides to find a settlement.

However, Amcu insiders said the union was focused on reaching a settlement with employers and sought clarity on the revised offer before it would give feedback to its members.

“Amcu cannot call off the strike until a settlement has been reached. Workers cannot return to work with nothing,” Narius Moloto, the general secretary of the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu), said yesterday.

Moloto said Amcu, a Nactu affiliate, was not happy with the offer by the companies.

“The positive thing about these talks is that the throwing of stones at one another is not there. I think both parties have come to sober senses,” he added.

Platinum producers could ill afford the revised wage offer at current metal prices, and this would further reduce their cash-generating ability in the absence of a material rise in prices, analysts have said.

“A rejection of the offer would prolong the strike and lengthen the recovery period for the platinum producers post the strike,” Kagiso Asset Management research head Abdul Davids said yesterday. “However, the mineworkers’ precarious financial position worsens with every passing strike day and they will be the ones who are worst affected if the strike continues.”

Progress in the talks helped lift South African shares higher yesterday, with Anglo American Platinum adding 0.95 percent to R509.99, Lonmin rising 0.82 percent to R51.75 and Impala Platinum adding 1.14 percent to R123.40 .

Under the revised offer, employers have proposed that the cash remuneration for entry-level underground employees would rise to R12 500 a month by July 2017.

To achieve this, the cash remuneration for these employees would rise by between 7.5 percent and 10 percent a year across the various bands.

Cash remuneration includes living out allowances, but excludes medical aid, retirement benefits and bonuses.

In a meeting last week, Amcu shop stewards had indicated that they would accept any offer as long as it was more than the one signed by the National Union of Mineworkers and Uasa, industry insiders said. – With Reuters


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