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

Johannesburg - The most powerful union at the world’s three biggest platinum producers plans meetings with its members this week in South Africa to test whether workers want to strike over pay.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union will assess if its members seek any change to demands to more than double basic wages on the country’s platinum belt, Jimmy Gama, treasurer for the union, said in a phone interview today.

A coordinated strike by AMCU members would paralyse production at Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc.

The union won the legal right in the final quarter of last year to down tools at the companies.

The AMCU has called for entry-level pay to rise to 12,500 rand ($1,170) a month.

“Those are the demands of the workers,” Gama said.

“It is up to our members whether they want to stay with that number.”

Two other unions, UASA and the National Union of Mineworkers, last month accepted an offer from Amplats, as Johannesburg-based Anglo Platinum is known, for a wage increase of as much as 8.5 percent.

Workers affiliated with AMCU, which represents about 60 percent of Amplats employees, won’t get the increase.

AMCU leaders are “aiming for a larger, cross-company strike in order to maximize leverage and achieve wage parity across companies, which would enhance the union’s sectoral power and inhibit defections to other unions down the line,” Mark Rosenberg, an Africa analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group, wrote in a January 8 note.


‘We’re Tired’


The defection of mine workers from the NUM, until last year the majority union at platinum producers, to the AMCU has put pressure on both organisations to deliver results for their members, without costing them their jobs.

“There’s how many companies that they close because of AMCU?” Thebe Maswabi, a member of the union, said in a report published yesterday by state broadcaster SABC News. “We’re tired.”

A decision by the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa to recruit at mines is “increasing pressure on AMCU to score significant wage increases sooner rather than later,” Eurasia’s Rosenberg said.

The NUM is meeting today with Northam Platinum Ltd., where it has retained its majority among workers members, to settle a strike over wages that began November 3. - Bloomberg News