Johannesburg - The strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) in the platinum belt is likely to continue until July, as mass meetings held at the weekend rejected the latest revised offer and members vowed to continue to fight for their demand for up to six months.
Amcu called on Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) to use its annual R600 million overtime budget for managers to hike the wages of entry-level underground employees before talks collapsed on Thursday.
The diversion of the overtime budget for management to the strikers was one of the proposals made by the union before the wage talks broke down, Evans Ramogka, Amcu’s shop steward at Amplats, said.
“We are trying to assist the companies, especially Amplats. If they take away the R600m overtime, that will meet our demand. We are not talking about profit here.
“This overtime pays mainly managers and engineers; it does not benefit our members. We know that the money is there,” Ramogka said.
Both parties accused each other of negotiating in bad faith in last week’s three-day talks facilitated by the Department of Labour. The employers took a decision to approach employees directly.
Mpumi Sithole, Amplats’s spokesperson, confirmed that the union had said it wanted some of the increase to come out of the overtime fund. She said a mass meeting was held with employees at Rustenburg at the weekend to consider the latest wage offer.
Meetings with employees in Eastern Cape towns including Lusikisiki, Mthatha, Matatiele and Sterkspruit are scheduled for this week. The company also plans to reach out to strikers in Mozambique.
“We are encouraged by this turnout at one of the Rustenburg mass meetings and believe that employees who were present will spread the message,” Sithole said.
Amcu held mass meetings with members from Impala Platinum and Amplats shafts on Thursday.
A meeting was held with Lonmin employees at the Wonderkop Stadium on Sunday.
“Members are saying that the companies must give them an offer that relates to their demand. Our members say they can sit for six months in the strike,” Ramogka added.
In a statement last week Amcu blamed the company for inflating the cost of the pay increase by up to R500m.
Lonmin approached employees directly after wage negotiations broke down on Thursday. Employers sent SMSes, distributed flyers, put adverts in local newspapers and used radio roadshows.
“The SMS line shows positive response over the weekend, but otherwise [it is] a little early to judge overall response,” Sue Vey, Lonmin’s spokeswoman, said.
Yesterday, Sandile Zungu, the Black Business Council’s general secretary, said: ”It is sad that the strike has continued to rob our country of desperately needed foreign exchange, employers of much needed production and employees of desperately needed wages.” .
The revised wage offer, which takes cash remuneration for entry-level underground workers to R12 500 a month, or R150 000 a year, by July 2017, falls short of workers’ demand for a R12 500 basic wage for entry-level underground workers in four years.
The platinum belt strike has cost the industry R15 billion in revenue and R6.72bn in wages since 70 000 Amcu members downed tools on January 23.