Talks to end a strike over pay that has crippled production at the world’s largest platinum mines in South Africa will resume next week after violent protests left one person dead and another seriously injured.
Negotiations between South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and employers will resume Feb. 11 after mining companies dismissed a proposal from the state broker to more than double workers’ basic pay to 12,500 rand ($1,130) within three years, Joseph Mathunjwa, President of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, told reporters in Johannesburg today. The lowest-paid underground workers currently earn monthly pay of between 5,000 rand and 6,000 rand, excluding benefits.
The AMCU, the largest union at platinum companies including Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc, has called more than 70,000 workers on a strike that has cost employers about 200 million rand per day since Jan. 23. South Africa accounts for about 70 percent of global output of the metal, used in jewelry and catalytic converters for vehicles.
Talks between the parties broke down on Feb. 5 after union members dismissed an offer for pay increases of as much as 9 percent per year. South Africa’s annual rate of inflation was 5.4 percent in December.
“We were amazed that the employers rejected the CCMA recommendation and stuck to their 9 percent,” Mathunjwa said. “This made discussions on a possible settlement difficult and left AMCU with no option but to continue with strike action.”
A union official died yesterday after South African police used rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse striking workers at the Union mine owned by Amplats, as the world’s largest producer is known, in the northern Limpopo province.
The incident happened as police and mine security tried to block a road toward an area where AMCU members were picketing, Mathunjwa said. He also blamed individuals belonging to “dark forces” disguised as AMCU members for instigating violence.
“Instead of maintaining law and order, the police have been transformed into a super killing machine,” Mathunjwa said.
Police investigating smoke at a settlement next to the mine were attacked and pelted with stones, Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police in Limpopo, said yesterday by phone.
Another employee was assaulted earlier this week on his way to Amplats’ Khuseleka mine “and remains in a critical but stable condition,” the company said in an e-mailed statement today. An excavator and one vehicle was set alight while 14 other vehicles were damaged, according to the statement.