A dramatic walkout from the platinum strike talks by union leaders and negotiators late yesterday has dashed hopes of an imminent settlement of the three-month-long strike.
Johan Theron, the spokesman for Impala Platinum, said the walkout by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) on the third day of the talks came after hours of wrangling to reshape the employers’ revised offer in which they proposed that the cash remuneration for entry-level underground employees would rise to R12 500 a month by 2017.
“They [Amcu] are asking for remodelling of the revised offer,” Theron said.
Theron said that the Amcu leaders had demanded that the companies increase the revised offer by 60 percent. The leaders of Amcu were not available last night to comment on the latest collapse in negotiations.
Theron said the chief executives of the firms bearing the brunt of the stoppage by 70 000 Amcu members – Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin – had decided to find ways to communicate the details of the offer directly with individual union members.
It was important that the striking miners, now destitute after not receiving pay since January 23, were made aware of the employers’ offer that the Amcu leaders had rejected.
News of the breakdown in talks came after Amcu officials had said that the union would be discussing the details of the revised offer with regional representatives today, before planning a feedback meeting with members. Evans Ramokga, an Amcu shop steward at Anglo American Platinum, said today’s meeting would be about both interpreting the offer and planning a meeting with Amcu members at a central venue.
“We cannot sign an agreement with the employers without going to our members for a mandate to do so first. We do not have the right to call off the strike until we do so,” Ramokga had said.
A Department of Labour spokesman said that the department was not ready to comment on the talks.
It is understood that Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant put pressure on both employers and Amcu to resolve the three-month-old strike.
The revised offer meant the cash remuneration for these employees would rise by between 7.5 percent and 10 percent across various bands.
Cash remuneration includes allowances such as the living-out allowance and holiday leave allowance, but excludes medical and retirement benefits, and other bonuses.
Last week, Amcu hired 100 buses to transport striking members to their homes, mainly in the Eastern Cape, Mozambique and Lesotho, for the Easter weekend. The union also launched a R1 million fund to help members with basic needs. It is likely to provide food parcels instead of money.
Amcu leaders also face a R600m damages claim by Anglo American Platinum, which says striking Amcu members are liable for loss of production, property damage and intimidation of non-striking employees.