Platinum cabal plays dubious game – Amcu

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The deliberate delay in settling the three-month strike is a perilous game played by the platinum cabal (Anglo American Platinum, Impala and Lonmin).

The platinum cabal has been playing a game of smoke and mirrors underpinned by deceit, dishonesty and bad faith. It has been difficult to find a settlement with positional employers who are bent on protecting the minority interests of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Uasa and the Chamber of Mines.

The cabal has been quick to spread lies about Amcu’s [the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s] intransigence. They say our members are unreasonable with unaffordable demands. We are baffled about what is unreasonable about asking for a living wage under extremely dangerous and back-breaking work? There is surely no good story to tell for mineworkers since the advent of democracy.

Mineworkers are still living under squalid conditions under the failing migrant labour system which has facilitated 21st century slave working conditions. The low wage economy in the mining sector is intensifying the superexploitation of workers while monopoly capital is drowning in super-profiteering with over 39 percent return on investments in mining.

The wage differentials reflect that the current R4 500 minimum wage which is earned by our members was earned by Indian and white workers in 1997. It has taken 17 years for mineworkers to reach this threshold with eroded real earnings.

Under apartheid the wage gap was typically 40 times between the lowest and the highest paid in a company. Today the difference is on average 209 times.

Over and above their obscene salaries, top management get paid in share options and share dividends that comes to millions of rand. It is important that we expose this capitalist greed which is prospering to the detriment of the workers, in order for the public to develop informed opinions on this dispute. In line with section 27 (6) of the Employment Equity Act, we demand that the Department of Labour reveals these companies’ income disparity reports to the public to uncover the ludicrous salaries paid to managers and executives in comparison with those of our members.

The settlement engagements have not managed to yield an agreement. As a mandate-driven organisation, we have taken the latest employer offer of achieving a “cash remuneration” package of R12 500 in 2017 to our members. The package is such that the cash remuneration includes the basic salary, holiday leave allowance or 13th cheque, attendance and living out allowances. This offer is equivalent to a 9.5 percent increase in the first year for lower grades. This is an extension of the agreement between Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and minority unions signed on December 13, 2013.

Our mandate is R12 500 on the basic salary (basic wage) in four years and is not benchmarked on the cash remuneration (basic wage, 13th cheque, allowances), guaranteed package (cash remuneration, medical and pension) nor total cost to company (guaranteed package, overtime and bonuses). Our members in all three mines rejected the offer and reiterated their original demand of R12 500 in four years.

The chief financial officer of Amplats indicated in the settlement engagements that his company had a budget of R1 billion per annum for wage increases, for the A, B and C categories. In interrogating the Amplats calculation of different wage increase alternatives, we realised that the staff complement had been inflated by 4 747 workers for the A, B and C categories (47 501 presented less 42 754 actual). This had accounted for up to R500 million in exaggerated wage increase costs. This was admitted by the Amplats number cruncher in the engagements. However, the Amplats negotiators conceded that the number of employees had been inflated, but refused to acknowledge that this was affecting the calculation of wage increases.

This engagement exposed that the employers, in particular Amplats, can afford Amcu demands and the different positions were within negotiation range. The R12 500 in four years will amount to a total cost to company increase of R1.3bn in the first year for Amplats (R1 800 a year increase on basic salary).

However, these companies hold the country at ransom. As a union we exposed reckless spending on overtime that predominately benefited managerial employees, which accounted for astronomical figures. At Amplats it was R691m, at Impala R248m and at Lonmin R312m for the year ended 2013. At Impala, 3 403 C level employees (miners, engineers and artisans) were paid R81m (of the R248m) in overtime in 2013.

We attempted to explore saving mechanisms to finance the wage increases. However, employers were defiant and not willing to explore these scenarios on the incorrect employment figures as well as the reduction on some of the overtime costs.

To have serious settlement engagements it is important for employers to provide total wage costs for each company to genuinely explore options. Amplats managed to give us a benchmark, although this was not in good faith. Impala and Lonmin refused.

The South African labour market and legislative framework is underpinned by social dialogue, collective bargaining and freedom of association. The organisation of workers into trade unions is a fundamental right that must be advanced and protected.

We condemn the actions of the platinum cabal and warn that this is an act of undermining Amcu and its members. The cabal has attempted to hold competing mass meetings to sell their R12 500 cash remuneration offer by 2017 to our members directly. The cabal, in futile attempts to meet with members in collusion with traditional chiefs, approached our members in their rural homes.

As a union, we are opposed to these efforts and warn that should there be altercations we will not be held accountable. These underhand tactics have been a failure and exposed the desperate attempts by this cabal to divide the workers. There are reactionary forces that have joined this bandwagon supporting the actions of this cabal and encouraging workers to go back to work without achieving their R12 500 increase on basic salary in four years.

We are disappointed by the utterances of Honourable President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant. This, coupled with other opportunist attempts by the NUM and Cosatu, has reinvigorated the R12 500 demand and cemented the unity of Amcu members behind the strike.

As has been reported to us, an Amplats employee, at Tumelo Coal Mine, named Mbhazima Nelson Mahomani, working with stock timber, went missing on April 30 underground. The mine continued to blast while he was missing, which exposed his life to danger and is a contravention of the Mine Health and Safety Act. He was found after two days and this has not been reported to the Department of Mineral Resources. We call on the Honorable Minister Susan Shabangu to institute an investigation and the culprits to be brought to book. Section 54 of Mine Health and Safety Act shows clearly that Amplats production is more important than the lives of workers.

We call on the platinum cabal to be patriotic and stop holding the country to ransom. Only an honourable settlement will end this strike. We implore all interested parties to respect collective bargaining mechanisms and work with the parties to find an amicable solution. The lobbying and politicking taking place is not untangling the problems. We submit to the yellow unions, that are colluding with the state and capital to pester members to return to work outside an agreement, to desist from these desperate attempts.

The Amcu strike is a protected industrial action and there must be no undue pressure on parties while exercising their constitution (sic) rights. We encourage progressive forces to put pressure on employers to settle this strike by accepting the Amcu demands.

This is an abridged version of a statement released by Amcu yesterday.


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