Association of mineworkers and construction union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse.

Johannesburg - The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) could strike within 48 hours of giving notice without risk of dismissals at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin after it rejected pay increase offers during wage negotiations last year.

Peter Attard Montalto, an analyst at Nomura International, predicts that the biggest event on the mining calendar will be an industry-wide strike action led by Amcu that will destabilise the industry.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration issued certificates of non-resolution to the union after its mediation failed to break the deadlocks in wage talks at the individual platinum producers.

Cape Town law expert Michael Bagraim explained that the strike certificates remained valid and the union could once more go into conciliation.

“If that doesn’t work, they can renew the certificate by giving employers 48 hours notice,” Bagraim said.

Amcu, which represents 60 percent of employees in the platinum sector, is demanding a minimum salary of R12 500 a month across the board, or more than double the current entry-level wage.

However, mining companies say the demand is unrealistic in the face of dwindling profit margins, rising costs and subdued demand.

Implats has offered to raise the wages of lower category workers by 8.5 percent, and Lonmin has offered pay rises of 6 percent for skilled employees and 7 percent for entry-level employees.

Amplats offered between 7.5 percent and 8 percent a year in a two-year deal.

To survive the challenging market environment, companies are downsizing operations.

Amplats proposed to cut 14 000 jobs last year, but after pressure from unions and the government it reduced the number to 3 000.

The job cut plans resulted in a crippling strike at Amplats. – Dineo Faku