Sector not gold-plated to withstand protracted strike

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Elize Strydom, the chief negotiator at the Chamber of Mines, and Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa shook hands and exchanged niceties on the sidelines of the Labour Court case yesterday.

Strydom quickly explains that the relationship between Amcu and the chamber is professional despite the litigation.

Amcu wants the Labour Court to nullify the interim interdict which declared that a strike by Amcu in the gold sector was unprotected while the Chamber of Mines wants the court to declare the interdict as permanent.

Amcu has also argued that the sections of the Labour Relations Act that have been used by the chamber to prevent the strike are unconstitutional and infringe on its right to strike.

The chamber is representing Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and AngloGold Ashanti, where Amcu wants to down tools for a R12 500 basic wage.

Unlike the platinum sector, the gold mining sector is fragile. It is unlikely to withstand a protracted strike, as has been seen on the platinum mines, because margins are super-low and costs are exorbitant.

Amcu is leading the unprecedented strike in the platinum industry and is adamant that the resources must be shared between shareholders and communities.

Mathunjwa has welcomed intervention by Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi.

Only time will tell if Ramatlhodi has the magic wand to end the strike because Amcu has not moved from its initial demand of R12 500 a month.

“We are sticking to R12 500, it is as simple as that. These are our minerals. The mine bosses must go back to their bosses in London and tell them that the game has changed”.

Michael Schroder, a portfolio manager at Old Mutual Equities, said previously he believed that the gold sector would not survive five years should a R12 500 minimum wage be implemented.

On track but...

News item 1: Eskom would have the first unit of the Medupi power plant operating by the first quarter of 2015, the acting chief executive, Collin Matjila, said yesterday.

“Medupi’s Unit 6 is on track for synchronisation by December 2014, with full commercial operation in the first quarter of 2015,” he said.

News item 2: The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) warned yesterday of a looming strike in the metals and engineering sector, starting on July 1, because wage negotiations had deadlocked.

Guess what – the work stoppage would include those who made gates and fencing, and contract workers for capital projects such as Medupi and Kusile, general secretary Irvin Jim said yesterday. It would also be joined by union members at Eskom.

Jim said: “Numsa is finally ready to take to the streets and withdraw its labour at an unprecedented level. We will not be held hostage by essential service designations and the union will not be responsible for any consequences that arise from workers being forced to strike.”

He said Numsa’s lowest-paid contract workers at Medupi and Kusile earned a paltry R3 050 a month while it was common cause that the contracting companies were reaping millions of rands from their contracts with Eskom.

“The 15 percent increase we are demanding will only improve their salaries by R450 a month,” Jim said.

He said once again Eskom was offering workers a pathetic 4.3 percent increase in salaries, far below the inflation rate, at a time when it was requesting R500 million for renovations at its head office.

The former chief executive of Eskom, Brian Dames, took home R8.64 million last year while the total remuneration to directors last year amounted to over R52m.

“This is daylight robbery of state resources that should be directed at ensuring security of supply and offering workers a living wage,” he said.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Dineo Faku and Wiseman Khuzwayo.


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