CEOs of Lonmin Platinum, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum have responded to Amcu’s threat of strike action in South Africa’s platinum belt, calling the union’s wage demands unrealistic and unaffordable, adding that a strike would not benefit the workers.

The statement, jointly released by all three companies, stated that “AMCU’s current wage increases are unaffordable and unrealistic. It is of great concern to the platinum companies that employees are being made promises by AMCU that cannot be delivered upon. Strike action will not only hurt the platinum industry but will be to the detriment of employees and their families, to communities, and to the country as a whole.”

The platinum companies insist that “we remain committed to further engagement and are resolute in our efforts to find a solution that will secure the sustainability of the industry as a whole and preserve jobs as far as possible. Importantly, we do not believe that a strike will benefit workers.”

The threatened strike action called by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) at platinum operations follow the deadlock reached last year in wage negotiations. “We received yesterday formal notification from AMCU of the proposed strike which is expected to start with effect from Thursday, 23 January 2014,” the statement said.

The offers on the table by the three platinum companies currently in collective bargaining processes with AMCU range from 8 to 8.5% for employees in the A and B-band bargaining unit (category 4 to 8 employees), 7.5% for C level employees (miners, artisans and officials) and increases in accommodation and other allowances.

“These offers compare favourably with increases in other sectors and are above the current inflation rate of 5.3%. It is important to note that the platinum industry has also extended wage increases substantially above the inflation rate in preceding years, and currently pays amongst the highest entry level wages in the country,” the statement said.

In 2012 and 2013, platinum companies lost a combined 879,400 ounces of production as a result of strike action. This translates into revenue losses of around R12.54 billion. It is estimated that employees were forced to forego wages of around R1.18 billion, excluding bonuses and other benefits which they were then not able to earn. Furthermore the platinum price has plunged by 19% over the past three years, while costs continue to rise.

These factors led to a reduction in the combined industry workforce from more than 145,000 to less than 134,000 in the two years from December 2011 to December 2013. “This is a time when the industry can ill afford further losses of production and jobs due to strike action,” the statement concluded.