Platinum Pay Talks Not as ‘Hostile’ as 2013, Biggest Union Says

  • South Africa’s AMCU union says lessons learned from strike
  • Union demands ‘living wage’ of 12,500 rand for lowest-paid

The biggest labor union at the world’s largest platinum mines said current wage talks aren’t as “hostile” as they were three years ago, which resulted in a five-month strike, South Africa’s longest.

The stoppage in 2014 “has indeed taught many of us how the wage negotiation should be conducted,” Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa, who led the strike by 70,000 miners, told reporters in Johannesburg Thursday. The situation isn’t as “hostile as it was in 2013. There’s a sense of understanding where the unions are coming from and also there’s a realization in terms of the price of platinum.”

The AMCU in 2013 displaced the National Union of Mineworkers as the largest representative of employees at the world’s three biggest platinum producers, all of which have most of their operations in South Africa. The price of the metal has plunged 32 percent since the previous wage deal was reached in June 2014, with producers cutting jobs and costs to try return to profitability.

The AMCU wants a 47 percent increase for the lowest-paid employees. Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world’s biggest producer, has offered 6.75 percent. While the talks deadlocked last month, the parties aren’t too far from settling, Amplats Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith said Wednesday.

The union has called for a “living wage” of 12,500 rand ($907) monthly, which would enable mineworkers to “counter the effect of food inflation,” Mathunjwa said.