Too far apart, says CCMA as it adjourns strike talks

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Johannesburg - Wednesday’s decision by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to shelve talks to end the protracted platinum strike meant that it had finally realised the negotiations had been ineffective, analysts said.

The CCMA-led mediation process failed to end the six-week labour disruption, which has hurt South Africa’s investment image. About 70 000 members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have been on strike since January 23 to demand a R12 500 minimum wage.

“Given that parties still remain far apart at this stage, the CCMA has decided to adjourn the process to give all parties an opportunity to reflect on their respective positions,” the agency said yesterday.

The big three producers had lost a combined R7 billion in revenue to date, while striking employees had forfeited R3.1bn in wages, the companies said on a website established to give updates on the strike.

“Due to the strike there is minimal activity at processing divisions and 90 000 platinum ounces have been lost,” Lonmin said in a statement.

“Lonmin announces that it will not achieve its sales guidance of [more than] 750 000 platinum ounces” this year.

It expected sales for the year to September to continue to fall as long as the strike continued.

Impala Platinum (Implats) said it had lost 90 000 ounces, which translated into revenue of R2 billion. Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said it was losing 4 000 ounces, or revenue of R100 million, every day.

On the JSE, Lonmin shares were knocked back 3.6 percent to end at R52.30 but other producers were little changed. Amplats added R3 to R448 and Implats inched up 9c to R114.80.

Mining firms were already the highest payers among labour-intensive industries in South Africa and it was “imperative that the economic realities are taken into account”, the three firms said in their joint statement yesterday.

Labour relations in the sector have not fully recovered from the deaths of 44 people during a strike in August 2012.

The CCMA’s decision follows other futile interventions, including Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s attempt to restore peace and stability in the industry last year.

John Brand, a consultant at law firm Bowman Gilfillan, said: “All that has happened by continuing with the conciliation is that it has lent legitimacy to Amcu’s patently bad faith bargaining and raised the hopes of workers that their unrealistic expectations might be met by strike action.”

Brand said if the conciliation had been terminated much earlier, it might have shortened the strike.

This week Amcu revised its demands, offering employers three years in which to meet the R12 500 demand, and then later saying they could do so over four years. Implats, Amplats and Lonmin have previously said Amcu’s R12 500 demand was unaffordable and translated into annual hikes of 30 percent.

Jimmy Gama, Amcu’s national treasurer, said firms could afford the increase but were reluctant to accept the offer because they had already signed agreements with minority unions. “We are giving them [employers] four years of stability without any disruption. What they give us now they can recoup within a year. They just don’t want to give us the increase,” Gama said.

Employers have previously offered a three-year wage deal that comprises increases of between 9 percent and 7.5 percent. - Business Report


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