Amcu will not buckle

2014-04-27 15:01

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Companies try to undercut Amcu, as the union takes a revised offer to members but makes no promises of acceptance

The crippling months-long platinum strike will definitely carry over into another week as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is still consulting its members about the employers’ new offer.

Amcu leadership is, however, not at all satisfied with the new offer and says the platinum mines tabled it before, but it was rejected because it was cash remuneration and not the R12?500 monthly basic salary that the union demands.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin tabled their offer with Amcu on Thursday, and the mining houses have embarked on a campaign to communicate the offer to employees via the media, text messages and other means.

Their offer says that:

»?The minimum cash remuneration for entry-level underground employees, which includes basic wages and leave, living-out and other allowances, will rise to R12?500 a month or R150?000 a year by July 2017.

»?By implementing these increases over the period, the cost to company for the lowest-paid underground employees would be in excess of R17?500 a month or R210?000 a year by July 2017. In addition to cash remuneration, the cost to company includes medical aid, pension, overtime and bonuses.

Amcu’s negotiator, Jimmy Gama, said that consultation with members started on Friday morning and would continue until Wednesday.

“There’s nothing new in their offer, but we can’t predict if our members will reject it. We’re consulting them and hope to get a new mandate on whether to accept it or not,” he said.

“We’re worried, though, that the companies have been spreading propaganda, saying that Amcu is refusing a good offer. They’ve also spent a lot of money, which they claim they don’t have, on TV and radio adverts to spread their message and we think that is provocative.”

Lonmin and Implats have told City Press that they were communicating the new offer individually to their members while waiting for Amcu’s response.

Lonmin spokesperson Sue Vey said some of its employees indicated that they wanted to come back to work.

“A lot of them are saying they want to come back and accept the offer. We’re still communicating with all of them locally and outside the country, and we may get sufficient numbers to agree. Until then, production won’t start?...?We need the right mix of skilled people to restart operations,” Vey said.

Implats spokesperson Johan Theron said his company started communicating with employees on Friday morning.

“We hope they will understand the offer and give a mandate to their union. It’s too early to gauge their response,” he said.

The companies have lost more than R14.7?billion in revenue since the strike started and employees have lost R6.5?billion in earnings.

Vey said Lonmin’s clients understood the situation, but were concerned about the sustainability of the business if the strike continues.

Theron said Implats mines situated outside Rustenburg – the ones in Zimbabwe and Limpopo – had not been affected and they accounted for 40% of the company’s production.

“Everybody is worried about the future of this industry and the impact on our employees, the mines and communities are terrible. We need to find some compromise,” he said.

Amcu and the companies said the situation on the ground was still stable. The torching on Thursday of an ANC office in Marikana, North West, near Lonmin’s operations had not been linked to the strike, the union said.

Gama said: “We’ve been to various mines and the situation is peaceful. Our members have been holding up and know that this is a struggle and they have to sacrifice some of their comfort. That spirit keeps them moving.”

Critical mass

Stockpile of precious metal wanes as strike continues

It will take at least five years for the platinum market to normalise, says Derek Engelbrecht, head of marketing at Impala Platinum.

The strike will have led to a direct production loss of 1.14?million ounces if a settlement is reached within the next two weeks.

However, Engelbrecht says there will be a deficit of 1.3?million ounces in the world market this year.

Since 2010, there has been a deficit every year – last year the deficit was 250?000 ounces.

Estimates of the size of stocks above ground – in vaults and banks – range from 2?million to 7?million ounces, while annual mine production stands at about 5.7?million ounces.

Engelbrecht estimates about 4?million ounces of stock available above ground, 1?million ounces of which have been removed by the strike, but this could easily grow to 2.5?million ounces before new mining production can be delivered to the market at a normal rate by August or perhaps even September.

– Jan de Lange

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