Amcu members chant slogans during a march in Johannesburg. File photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters.

DURBAN - Trade union Solidarity said on Wednesday that fellow union Amcu needed to act responsibly and in the interests of mine workers as its members were "striking themselves into poverty". 

“Amcu’s absurd accusation that by not joining their SibanyeStillwater strike, Solidarity is protecting colonialists and the apartheid privileged, bears testimony to ignorance and ideological ineptitude,” Solidarity general-secretary Gideon du Plessis said via an emailed statement. 

Du Plessis said that Solidarity, together with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Uasa, had signed a wage agreement with Sibanye-Stillwater with the purpose of increasing job security for mineworkers, including Amcu members, at a time when the mining industry was under severe pressure. 

“Amcu’s Sibanye strike, which has been ongoing for three months already, is a major contributor to the fact that nearly 7 000 Sibanye-Stillwater employees are now facing retrenchment. The 11 000 striking Amcu employees’ loss of income is already at an average loss of R42 246 per striking worker. The workers are busy striking themselves into poverty,” he said. 

Amcu was well on its way to destroying thousands of jobs just as they did previously during their five-month platinum strike, he said. 

“Amcu’s 2014 strike resulted in up to 16 000 job losses at Lonmin alone, and it is the main reason why this company is now on its knees and workers are still carrying a heavy debt burden,” said Du Plessis. 

He said that in the wake of the 2014 strike, Lonmin embarked on a retrenchment process by which it initially reduced its workforce by 8 000 employees. 

The mobilisation of the K4 shaft was also suspended which resulted in a further 6 000 job opportunities being destroyed. 

Following the retrenchments, Lonmin reduced its workforce by a further 2 000 employees through natural turnover. 

“In total, it comes down to 16 000 job losses at one company with another 12 000 Lonmin employees who can potentially still lose their jobs, all because of the Amcu strike,” Du Plessis said.  

Amcu had already called on its members at other mining houses to strike with members at Sibanye Stillwater, he said. 

“This call is irresponsible and in nobody’s interest. It will just lead to further job losses."

"It is also perturbing that Amcu’s strike at Sibanye is accompanied by high levels of violence where seven non-striking workers have been killed already and 149 others have been seriously injured while tens of houses belonging to non-striking workers have been burnt down. This atrocious disparagement of workers’ right to work must come to an end and the spilling over effect to the rest of the mining industry must be prevented at all costs." 

Amcu senior management’s ideological rhetoric and populist statements were obsolete and Solidarity urged Amcu leaders to put the job security of their members and mine workers first, he said.

African News Agency (ANA)