Strike overshadows platinum sector talks

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Amcu members march to Impala Platinum's offices in Illovo, Johannesburg, to hand over a memorandum yesterday while industry players met with top government officials. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s quarterly meeting aimed at restoring stability in the platinum industry, held in Pretoria yesterday, was overshadowed by the nine-week strike led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Amcu, the biggest union in the platinum belt, was absent at yesterday’s Mining Consultative Forum, casting doubt on Motlanthe’s ability to resolve the problems in the industry.

At the same time, thousands of Amcu members marched to the Impala Platinum (Implats) head office in Sandton, where they handed over a memorandum to management as the strike began its tenth week.

Amcu is expected to hand a memorandum to Lonmin, the third-biggest platinum producer, next Thursday.

“We’re not returning to work until they commit to R12 500 in four years,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said at the Implats office, Bloomberg noted.

Motlanthe met with Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, the Chamber of Mines, and leaders of trade unions Solidarity, the National Union of Mineworkers and Uasa. Union federations Fedusa and Nactu were also represented at the forum.

There have been four meetings since the launch of the forum last year and the next quarterly meeting is expected soon after the May 7 election.

After the meeting, Shabangu told journalists that Amcu’s wage demand had not been discussed at the forum.

“The strike was not discussed mainly because there are processes going at company level and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA),” the mining minister said.

“We urge parties to engage to find a solution for workers to go back to work. The strike is not only hitting the workers but also impacts on the economy.”

The CCMA resumed its efforts to end the strike on Wednesday, when it met with Amcu. The body is expected to hold separate meetings with employers and employees and no face-to-face meetings between the parties have been scheduled.

This comes after mediators temporarily suspended the talks three weeks ago because the parties were poles apart.

Analysts said Amcu’s absence from the forum was expected.

“I think it was no surprise really they weren’t there and it means the good work that the deputy president is doing here only really can stretch so far in getting resolution for the mining sector,” Nomura global markets researcher Peter Attard Montalto said from London.

Amcu declined to sign the framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry last year, saying that there were outstanding demands from the mining industry.

Gideon du Plessis, the secretary general at Solidarity, said the participants at yesterday’s forum committed to the establishment of a programme to address and allay investors’ fears, particularly those of foreign investors.

“Solidarity is impressed by the leadership the deputy president is showing in this ongoing initiative, as well as by his commitment to the realisation of a stable mining environment,” Du Plessis said.

Amcu is striking for a R12 500 minimum wage for all underground employees at Lonmin, Implats and Anglo American Platinum.

The three major producers have said the demand was unaffordable and the effects of the strike had reached a stage where damage was irreparable.

Implats chief executive Terence Goodlace noted Amcu’s concerns and said the company had taken steps to address historical imbalances, and acknowledged that more needed to be done to level the playing fields. – With additional reporting by Sapa


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