After six weeks of ongoing negotiations in the platinum sector, eventually resulting in the indefinite suspension of wage talks, a fight has begun between the Chamber of Mines negotiating on behalf of the companies and the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

This comes after Dr Elize Strydom, the Chamber’s chief negotiator, criticised the CCMA for its lack of mining and economics knowledge and queried the logic of its negotiation process in a report published in the Sunday Times.

The Chamber maintains that the statement was off-the-record, with CEO Bheki Sibiya apologising in a statement to the CCMA, saying “Dr Strydom is an expert in labour relations and is a fearless, respected and fair negotiator, who always acts in the best interest of her constituents and their counterparts. The Chamber of Mines will engage directly with the CCMA regarding any maters directly relating to the negotiations.”

The CCMA has responded by demanding that the Chamber retract its comments, where Strydom “unjustly accuses the CCMA of misconduct and incompetence,” Laura Mseme, a spokeswoman at the CCMA said. The CCMA also accuses the Chamber of failing to uphold the confidentiality of the issues raised in the negotiation process and expects the occurrence to negatively impact the level of trust required for successful; mediation.

“It surely cannot assist the crisis in the industry, and we regard it as an undesirable strategy during such a fragile and complex process…We specifically wish to put on record that at no stage have any such concerns been raised with the CCMA, and we consider it alarming that an organisation such as the Chamber of Mines could utilize a public forum to express its opinion without having at any point raised these issues with the CCMA,” Mseme added.

This is expected to hinder a resolution in the wage negotiations between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and platinum giants Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin. Workers have lost close to R4 billion in wages after nearly seven weeks since having downed tools on January 23.

The union’s workers are demanding a R12 500 minimum basic wage for entry level underground workers, while the companies have offered increases ranging from 7 to 9%.