Despite hopes that the crippling five-month wage strike in the platinum sector was on the brink of resolution, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has returned with ‘unaffordable’ new demands beyond the deal struck ‘in principle’ with producers.
Platinum producers, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin have confirmed that each company has received written feedback from Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa.
The letters received from Amcu confirmed that the union had received a mandate from its members to finalise agreements with the companies that would bring an end to the five-month strike. The letters raise various procedural issues, such as the timeframe of proposed agreements, which the companies are willing to discuss with the union leadership.
“Regrettably, however, the letters also contain new and additional demands which, if granted, would mean huge additional costs – of around R1 billion in aggregate – to the companies, beyond the increases contained in the ‘in principle’ agreements,” the companies said in a joint statement.
“The companies simply cannot afford the additional wage demands. Engagement with Amcu on their latest demands is ongoing. The goal remains a sustainable solution beneficial to all stakeholders.”
This follows an ‘in principle’ agreement reached between the companies and Amcu leadership last week. Amcu committed to take this agreement to their members at the various mass meetings to receive a mandate from their members to sign an agreement.
“The response from Amcu contains new material outside the principle agreement,” said Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole.
“We don’t know if the mines are going to make money one or two years from now. How do we agree not to restructure? It’s something that we could never agree to,” added Implats spokesman Johan Theron.
The companies have confirmed that there has been a return to the platinum belt region of large numbers of employees who have spent the strike period elsewhere.
To date the companies have forfeited earnings of around R23.1 billion, while employees have forfeited earnings of some R10.3 billion, making this the longest and costliest strike in South Africa’s history. About 40% of platinum’s global production has been affected, dragging South Africa’s economy towards a recession.
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