AMCU says striking miners reject platinum wage offer

MARIKANA — Members of South Africa’s striking mining union AMCU have rejected the latest wage offer from the world’s top three platinum producers, its president said on Tuesday (29/04/2014), extending a crippling 14-week stoppage.

“The members have rejected the offer from the employer,” Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters after addressing a rally of workers near Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) held similar rallies in recent days at Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum.

It now plans to meet this week with the companies to inform them in person of the rejection, Mathunjwa said.

Marathon wage talks collapsed last week, dashing hopes for an imminent end to South Africa’s longest and most costly mining strike, which has hit 40% of global platinum production and threatens growth in Africa’s most advanced economy.

The companies say they are taking their offer directly to the workers via cellphone text messages and radio and newspaper spots in a bid to circumvent AMCU’s leadership, setting the stage for a grinding showdown between capital and labour.

Their bet is that after three straight months with no pay, the rank and file will to stay off the job has been sapped.

Initially AMCU demanded an immediate doubling of the basic wage — net salary before allowances such as housing — for entry-level workers to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month.

The union has since said it would accept annual increases that would reach this goal in three or four years’ time.

The producers’ latest offer, made last Thursday, was for wage rises of up to 10% and other increases that would take the minimum pay package — the basic wage including the allowances — to 12,500 rand a month by July 2017.

Companies say they cannot afford any more given rising costs and depressed prices for the precious metal used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles.

Underlining this point is the muted price reaction to the stoppage despite the over 700,000 ounces of production lost to it so far — around 12% of global annual output.

Spot platinum is fetching around $1,412 an ounce, around 2.5% lower than it was on the eve of the strike.

INTIMIDATION Industry sources maintain AMCU’s militant core is using intimidation to keep members in line and say most of its workers have returned to their home villages far from the shafts, so its mass rallies are not a real indication of its support. - Reuters