Johannesburg - South Africa’s three largest platinum producers are facing double digit wage demands for both the lowest paid employees and highly skilled workers.
The biggest union at the mines, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), yesterday demanded a 47 percent pay increase for the the lowest paid workers in Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
The union said salaries for highly skilled workers should increase by 15 percent.
Amcu general secretary Jeff Mphahlele said the union wanted the lowest paid employees in the industry to be paid at least R12 500, instead of the average R9 000 per month they were currently getting.
Mphahlele said the union wanted a one-year wage deal.
He said talks with Impala were scheduled to start next week while negotiations with Lonmin and Anglo American would start later this month. “The implementation of the negotiations should be as of July 1, in case wage negotiations take longer than expected; a back payment will be made irrespective as to when the agreement has been reached,” Mphahlele said.
“The failure of the South African economy to industrialise, diversify and beneficiate mining commodities has postponed opportunities for employment creation,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said, referring to local processing of mineral ores.
“The Amcu struggle is for a living wage in the mining sector that addresses the cost of living.”
In 2012 Amcu led a crippling strike in the country’s platinum belt, which cost the companies R23.9 billion in revenue and workers R10.6bn in wages. The strike resulted in the killing of 34 workers by police at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.
The new demands come as the industry grapples with the slowdown in commodity prices. Since 2011, the platinum price has declined 42 percent, which, together with the effects of the stoppage, prompted Impala and Lonmin to raise funds from shareholders last year.
This week figures from Statistics SA showed that unemployment hit 26.7 percent in the first quarter of 2016 and annual inflation clocked in at 6.1 percent in May.
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla said net employment in the private sector had decreased, with only the government sector creating 44 000 jobs. He said trade had suffered most in the quarter, recording a decline of 1.8 percent, followed by transport at 1.1 percent and mining at 0.9 percent.
Trade union Solidarity described the double digit demand as artificial. Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said the demand could chase future investments away.
* With additional reporting by Bloomberg