Biggest Platinum Companies Say Workers Seek Strike EndAndre Janse van Vuuren
Workers striking at the South African operations of the world’s largest platinum producers want to report for duty almost nine weeks after the biggest union called a stoppage over wages, the companies say.
Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc are communicating with employees by text messages and through radio campaigns after talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union broke down on March 5, Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the producers at Russell & Associates, said today by phone. Employees have lost about 4.5 billion rand ($420 million) in unpaid wages, according to a website run by the companies.
“The offer is good; the problem is we want to go back to work but we are afraid to get killed,” a worker wrote in a message published to the producers’ website.
The AMCU called the strike on Jan. 23, demanding basic wages be more than doubled within three years to 12,500 rand a month, from current pay of 5,000 rand to 6,000 rand. Employers have offered increases of as much as 9 percent. South Africa’s inflation rate was 5.9 percent in February. The country accounts for more than two-thirds of the world’s mined platinum, used for jewelry and catalytic converters in vehicles to reduce harmful emissions.
“I’m worried about our jobs -- what is the final offer and when can we report at work,” another worker wrote.
The producers have lost more than 10 billion rand in revenue due to the strike, according to their website.
Their offer will increase underground entry-level miners’ basic pay to as much as 7,230 rand by July next year and total pay, including cash allowances, medical and retirement benefits, to 12,172 rand, the companies said on the website.
The relatives of some workers have also said they want the strike to end, the companies said.
“My father is the only bread winner at home with three children and a wife to provide for,” a daughter wrote. “Now since the strike is not promising to end and workers are living in fear of losing their jobs, it gets hard physically and emotionally.”
Producers are asking workers to give the AMCU a new mandate for a lower settlement, Impala spokesman Johan Theron said by phone on March 24.
AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa wasn’t immediately available to comment. The union will be marching tomorrow to the Johannesburg offices of Impala, the second-largest producer, to hand over a list of its demands. It had a similar rally at Anglo American Platinum, the biggest miner of the metal, on March 18.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, a state labor mediator, is meeting with the AMCU today in an attempt to recommence talks between the disputing parties, it said in an e-mailed statement today. It will be meeting with producers at a later stage, it said.