Amcu members. The union said it had a change of heart following a mass meeting held last week. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has backed down on its initial demand for a 48 percent monthly wage hike after members gave the union a new mandate to seek an increase of R1 500 a year.

Amcu, which led a bruising five-month wage strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s South African gold operations that ended in April, said it had a change of heart following a mass meeting held last week.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Monday that members opted for a R1 500 increase for three years, dumping the increase to R17 000 a month in one go for the lowest-paid workers in the industry.

“I addressed a mass meeting at Lonmin last week Thursday, and we also held a central meeting. Our members said they now want a R1 500 a year increase,” said Mathunjwa, adding that negotiations with the world’s biggest platinum producers were continuing.

Amcu is the largest union in South Africa’s platinum belt.

In June, the union announced the R17 000 demand, saying it had abandoned its signature demand of R12 500, as it had been eroded by inflation.  

Amcu said at the time that R17 000 was a living wage and was the minimum amount that a worker needed as a basic salary.

Producers warned that the demand was unattainable.

However, Amcu said mining companies could not plead poverty, because the rally in platinum group metals had helped them rake in profits. It cited the 300 percent increase in the price of rhodium and 150 percent in palladium as a case in point.  

Amcu declared a dispute with big producers such as Sibanye-Stillwater and Anglo American Platinum. 

Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted said engagement on the issue of wages was continuing.

“I cannot say exactly what the sticking points are, other than that we have not yet been able to reach a mutual agreement,” said Wellsted.  

Wellsted confirmed that Amcu had tabled a demand for a R1 500 a year increase in basic wages.

“Obviously, this is not the only element being negotiated though,” said Wellsted.

Jana Marais, Anglo American Platinum spokesperson, confirmed that Amcu had declared a dispute with the company, which was normal during wage negotiations.

“The matter is being dealt with through internal dispute resolution mechanisms,” Marais said.

Amplats initially offered a basic salary increase of R1 000 for year one, and R800 for years two and three, to be paid to job grade A and B workers, and 5.5 percent for each of the three years to workers in categories C and D.

Sibanye RPM initially offered R700 as basic salary increases to category A and B workers for years one and two, and R800 for year three. 

At Lonmin operations, Sibanye offered R300 salary increases for year one, R350 for year two and R400 for year three.

BUSINESS REPORT