AMCU on Thursday demanded a R12 500 entry-level wage for its members in South Africa's platinum sector as well as other general condition of employment demands.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa says South Africa’s institutionalised collective bargaining system is rapidly growing and becoming unresponsive to the needs of the lower earning workers in a low wage regime where two thirds of the labour force earns less than the mining sector’s median earnings.

He therefore called for a net salary of R12 500, or a 56% increase, as a minimum wage for its lowest paid members who currently take home approximately R8 000 per month.

He also called for a 15% increase in wages for higher paid employees when the negotiations start on 12 July.

The union also demanded allowances for mining, processing, support services and engineering staff to be increased.

He demanded an increase of R6 500 per month (pm) for housing allowances, a living out allowance of  R3 000 pm, meal allowance to be R100 per day, transport a R2 000 pm, night shift and shift increase by 15%, underground allowance to all underground employees R2 000 pm and drilling allowance will be R2 500 pm.

Other conditions of employment that AMCU called for included a reduction of working days to five as the union believes it will assist in reducing the amount of accidents in mines.

He also called for long service awards to be calculated based on the number of years at the company; employee dependants to receive bursaries; annual leave of 35 days; fully-paid maternity leave of nine months; family responsibility leave of 14-days; study leave of three days per subject to be written; and the clocking-in system to be “harmonised”.

Addressing the media in Sandton on Thursday Mathunjwa noted that inflation has perpetuated “slave wages in South Africa’s economy and attempts to collectively bargain outside the orthodox parameters is regarded as radical and militant. This creates uncertainties to those who have benefitted from the system”.

Mathunjwa believes that trade unions have over the years been “marshals of their own oppressions”, legitimising the exploitation of workers by forcing them to conform with institutional mechanism which they do not have control over.

The union president says this year and the previous years have seen a global economic recession, and the wage negotiations will resultantly be conducted under difficult conditions.

In the latest Statistics SA report, the country’s economy contracted by 1.2% in the first quarter of 2016. The International Monetary Fund has therefore revised the country’s growth target to 0.5%, which may further be impacted by increases in inflation later this year.

The union says that the negotiations are most likely going to reflect the hard times in South Africa –  where the economy is contracting and approximately 800 000 graduates are out of work.

“Analysis of the geology of unemployment in SA shows an economy that has a history of high unemployment levels due to structural constraints. The economy has failed to create jobs despite there being a commodity boom; while employers were enjoying so much of their profits while the country did not achieve full employment between year 2000 and 2007,” Mathunjwa comments.

NUM demands

In June, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) demanded a 20% increase in wages across the board when it tabled its platinum wage demands. Commenting on this, AMCU contemptuously says that they are not in a competition with NUM, noting that they are “on their own and are not pressured by any demands that NUM wanted.”

“If they were really serious about the 20% they should have demonstrated this in the gold sector,” Mathunjwa says.

When asked about an impending strike if wage demands are not met, Mathunjwa said that AMCU are not intending to strike, but if the employers do not meet our demands then the union would consider strike action as a last resort.

Mathunjwa noted that AMCU is willing to meet all the mining companies at the same table, as long as their demands are met.

AMCU said it will open negotiations with Anglo American Platinum on 12 July, with Lonmin on 13 July and with Impala Platinum on 14 July.