Striking miners chant slogans as they march in Nkaneng township, outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, on May 14, 2014. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - Talks to end the 17-week strike in the platinum sector start today at the Labour Court in Johannesburg after an application for an urgent interdict against employers developed into mediation talks yesterday.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and South Africa’s major platinum houses – Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin – agreed to start a three-day mediation process facilitated by Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker.

The court had initially been scheduled to hear an urgent application brought by Amcu to interdict the platinum companies from communicating their pay offer directly to workers through an SMS and telephonic campaign after wage talks collapsed repeatedly.

Earlier yesterday, the legal teams for both parties were locked in Judge Rabkin-Naicker’s chambers and later journalists were asked to leave the public gallery to make way for closed mediation talks.

“The legal teams are now talking to each other,” Amcu national treasurer Jimmy Gama said on the sidelines of the talks.

Lonmin executive vice-president for communications and public affairs Lerato Molebatsi and Lonmin executive vice-president for human resources Abey Kgotle attended the hearing.

Amcu national organiser Dumisani Nkalitshana was also in the public gallery.

Whether the latest mediation process will succeed is yet to be seen after the previous talks to end the strike, facilitated by the Department of Labour, collapsed last month.

“Reaching an affordable and sustainable agreement with Amcu would be in all of our interests, and that remains our preference,” the chief executives of the three companies said in a statement released later yesterday.

“We remain committed to ongoing dialogue with Amcu and other stakeholders to find a way to end the strike. The companies welcome the intervention of the Labour Court,” the statement said.

On Monday, Lonmin said it had dismissed 235 essential services employees after they failed to return to work by last Wednesday’s deadline.

Gama said this was unfair as the union had kept the company updated on the safety concerns of the essential services employees.

Amcu wanted the court to stop the companies from conducting polls on whether employees want to return to work, and for companies to stop undermining the union’s recognition agreements.

Lonmin chief executive Ben Magara has previously argued that the company had a right to talk directly with staff who were first employees before they were members of Amcu.

Magara made an emotional plea for a negotiated settlement with Amcu so that employees could return to work.

Since January 23 about 70 000 Amcu members have been on strike for a R12 500 a month basic wage for entry-level underground employees.

Lonmin shares slid 1.9 percent to R41.20 yesterday, Amplats fell 0.91 percent to R462 and Implats fell 0.74 percent to R114.15. - Business Report