Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. File photo: Matthews Baloyi

Rustenburg - Platinum producers were “flouting labour relations” and causing division among workers by communicating their latest wage offer directly to employees, thereby bypassing the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), union president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Wednesday.

On that day Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said it was taking its latest offer to workers across southern Africa. Company spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said the company had been hosting a series of mass meetings in Rustenburg, which began last week, and had started in areas such as the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and Mozambique to engage directly with workers on its revised offer.

Economist Mike Schussler said on Wednesday that the ongoing strike in the platinum belt was taking workers into poverty as it entered day 97.

“It’s ludicrous,” he said during his presentation of the 2014 Uasa South African Employment Report.

It was Schussler’s 12th such presentation.

In other countries where people went on strike, unions had enough money available to pay workers the wages they lost while on strike.

In the case of the platinum strike, the union is paying striking workers less than R5 a month.

“You really are taking people into poverty,” Schussler said. “Not relative poverty but real poverty.”

Amcu members at Lonmin, Amplats and Impala Platinum downed tools on January 23. Uasa is another union represented on the mines.

Schussler said about 70 000 people were on strike in the sector but this affected over 120 000 people directly. “Every week this strike goes on, more people will be affected,” he said.

In the past two years, 8 million work days were lost due to strikes. “The strike does impact on the economy. It plays a big role on confidence in the economy.”

Entry-level workers had so far lost about R26 775 a person in wages alone and R5 016 in benefits. Schussler said it would be nearly impossible for the workers to recover from what they had lost.

Mining production this year would also show a decline.

He said a further 19 000 contract workers had also lost income and another 55 000 had lost at least part of their income from overtime and bonuses.

Uasa says that in recent years, strikes have been increasing and this is filtering into the way people think about South Africa.

“When comparing strike rates per 1 000 workers, it is clear that South Africa is moving up in the wrong direction when comparing strikes.”

The union says the public sector strikes have involved more workers and in 2010 resulted in South Africa having a higher number of work days lost per 1 000 workers than the UK had in 1979, that country’s winter of discontent, or during the miners’ strike in the early 1980s.

It says that the economy has so far lost about 0.4 percent of its growth for the year as a direct consequence of the platinum strike.

This is because the mining industry is a primary industry and although it does not keep all the income for itself, it buys mainly from other South African firms.