Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said the platinum producers made money on the PGM prices and that the offer tabled was an insult to mineworkers. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is headed for a showdown with platinum producers after it rejected wage offers tabled by the country’s top miners on the back of rising platinum group metals (PMG) prices. 

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Tuesday that the platinum producers made money on the PGM prices and that the offer tabled by the merged Sibanye Lonmin operations of an increase of R300 in the first year, R350 for the second year and R400 for the third year was an insult to mineworkers. 

“We believe that Sibanye is trying to provoke us into a strike,” Mathunjwa said, adding the union was not negotiating for a strike but better conditions of employment.

“We are saying PGM prices have appreciated. Sibanye-Stillwater did not pay a cent to acquire Lonmin; they exchanged shares in order to complete the deal. There is no way that Sibanye Lonmin can plead poverty,” Mathunjwa told journalists in Johannesburg.

In June, Sibanye-Stillwater completed the acquisition of Lonmin plc, the world’s third-largest producer.

Mathunjwa said Lonmin’s unaudited operating profit jumped to $70 million (R1.07 billion) in the first half of 2019 from an audited loss of $32m in the first half of 2018.

“This proves that Lonmin was indeed profitable when Sibanye-Stillwater acquired it,” said Mathunjwa.

Amcu, the biggest union in the platinum belt, is aiming for a minimum monthly salary of R17 000 for the lowest-earning worker. It abandoned its original R12 500 salary hike, saying it had been made redundant by inflation.

Amcu also wants mining houses to build houses for the families of mine workers who die in mine fatalities. Mathunjwa said Impala Platinum (Implats) had offered an increase of R800 a year over three years, adding that members had rejected the offer.

Implats spokesperson Johan Theron said the company was due to meet with Amcu again in the next few days.

“We have proposed a three-year, R800 per annum increase for the lowest paid workers, which will take their minimum basic wage well above the original R12 500 Amcu demand. The percentage increase would vary for different job categories, with lower paid employees receiving a higher percentage increase,” Theron said.

Theron said the company remained confident that a resolution could be achieved through ongoing engagement and a commitment by the parties to prioritise a sustainable long-term outcome.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) offered a basic salary increase spread over three years, comprising R1 000 in the first year and R800 for the second and third year.

Amcu led a bruising five-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s local gold operations which ended in April, and in 2014 it also led 70 000 members in a five-month strike in major platinum companies. 

Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted said the group remained committed to further engagement with Amcu, despite the fact that the group found the wage demands unaffordable and unreasonable.

“Lonmin has been in a very difficult financial position for years. The offer that we have tabled reflects that Lonmin assets are losing money. The fact that Amcu’s demands are unaffordable will threaten the viability of Lonmin’s operations,” said Wellsted.