File photo: Reuters

Johannesburg - The share prices of major platinum producers failed to pick up yesterday and platinum chief executives were unswayed after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) softened its stance on its R12 500 a month minimum wage demand.

The union has proposed removing the link between pay and some benefits, so that these do not increase during the next three years.

Amcu, which is leading the strike involving 70 000 members who downed tools at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin, would give employers three years to match the demand, union president Joseph Mathunjwa said at a press conference yesterday.

“Our move is to give the employer a breather to achieve the basic salary.”

An analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said said the platinum producers could not afford R12 500 even in three years’ time.

“I don’t think that the market knows what to believe, tomorrow the union may say something else. There is so much noise about strikes and challenges even in Zimbabwe,” the analyst said.

“They cannot just give in to the demand, it will mean that the [wage] will move by 100 percent over three years. By 2016, mineworkers will earn more than teachers, and that does not make sense,” the analyst said.

The platinum producers have lost R6.8 billion in revenue and employees have lost R3bn in wages in the strike.

“It’s still a very big increase,” said Justin Froneman, a Johannesburg-based equity analyst at SBG Securities, referring to Amcu’s demands. “I fear it’s not likely to happen, but at least they’re talking.”

Implats spokesman Johan Theron said the revised demand remained “completely unaffordable and not sustainable as previously articulated by the chief executives”.

The basic wage sought by the union represented an increase of as much as 150 percent, “which is not affordable to the industry, even over three years”, Charmane Russell, the spokeswoman at Russell & Associates, representing the SA Chamber of Mines, said.

The platinum mining companies had tried to break the strike, approaching traditional tribal leaders in an attempt to influence workers, “but we won’t be detracted from our cause”, Mathunjwa said at the press conference in Johannesburg.

“This is the first time that Amcu has moved during the strike,” Tyler Broda, an analyst at Nomura International in London, said yesterday.

“Perhaps signals [are] that Amcu is worried about a break in its support,” Broda said.

Lonmin gained 0.89 percent to R54.25 and Amplats fell 1.11 percent to R445.