Amcu members have held out for a R12 500 a month basic wage for more than four months and a settlement that may be acceptable to them could be within reach after intervention in the negotiations by the government. Photo: Matthews Baloyi

Johannesburg - The first sign of an agreement that could end the more than four-month-long platinum strike emerged last night, with a source close to the cabinet’s inter-ministerial task team saying Amcu had agreed to the government’s proposal.

The source close to the government’s inter-ministerial intervention in the protracted strike said the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) had agreed that the proposal would be tabled with platinum producers this morning.

The government’s proposal was based on a R12 500 basic minimum wage excluding living-out allowances and other add-ons to be achieved within three years.

Platinum producers had previously made an offer that appeared to be R12 500, but included allowances such as the living-out allowance.

Amcu is now expected to put the offer to its members, but a government official speaking on condition of anonymity last night said they were “more optimistic” yesterday than a week ago.

A report-back from union members is expected on Friday.

“The meeting was very cordial. Everybody wants this done. It was a little tense but we are more positive than last week,” the official said.

Present at last night’s meeting were Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who is leading the inter-ministerial committee, Deputy Minister of Labour Phathekile Holomisa, and Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa, treasurer Jimmy Gama, Bishop Joe Seoka and Economic Freedom Fighters MP Dali Mpofu represented the union. Mpofu also represents families of slain miners at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana massacre.

Agreement from Amcu was key to the resolution of the labour dispute, the source said.

Concerns of the union relating to housing and other socio-economic conditions on the platinum belt would require further intervention and assistance from additional government departments.

A former trade unionist with experience in negotiating labour disputes said earlier yesterday that he believed the government would have “done homework on the numbers” before putting a proposal to Amcu.

This would be done to prevent a situation in which Amcu agreed to a proposal without the employers also having agreed to it.

“The companies would have signalled to the minister [of mineral resources] that he could give an offer, but they can’t do that formally,” he said.

He said it was down to the wire now but “the key nut to crack is Amcu”.

“It puts pressure on Amcu, but they have to save face.

“So it’s quite a delicate situation. We’ll have to see in the next 24 hours.”

Amcu must have made concessions as it is not likely to reach the R12 500 a month basic salary it has demanded.

A senior union source said the deal comprised a R800 a month increase for the first year, or an increase of up to 16 percent for the lowest-paid entry-level employees.

Increases in the subsequent four years would be linked to inflation.

The union source said a living-out allowance of up to R2 000 had also been included in the agreement, but it would be non-pensionable.

The R800 increase was first proposed during the Labour Court mediation facilitated by Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker.

Neither Mathunjwa nor Gama were available for comment at the time of publication.

Yesterday Johan Theron, a spokesman at Impala Platinum, the world’s second-biggest platinum producer, said the company was giving Amcu the opportunity to consult with its members first before it resumed direct communication with employees.

About 70 000 Amcu members have been on strike since January 23. The strikers are estimated to have lost in R9.2 billion earnings. - Business Report