Platinum producers can fire strikers – analysts

2014-06-11 08:22

Platinum producers can fire workers on a protected strike if their actions start destroying the business, labour analysts have said.

“The Labour Relations Act does allow for this if the effect of the strike threatens the very enterprise,” Andrew Levy said yesterday.

“The employer can call them [the workers] and say ‘I’m going to have to close things down’.”

Another analyst, Tony Healy, said it was unprecedented and unlikely to happen during the current strike in the platinum sector.

“This is a little more tricky and unprecedented,” he said.

“It is possible ... that the employer will say it’s protected, but because of the mayhem it is causing ... the protection you are afforded should be removed.”

Both Levy and Healy agreed that retrenchments would more likely be the outcome.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have been on strike at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin in the platinum belt since January 23 for a basic monthly salary of R12 500. They have so far rejected the companies’ offer that would bring their cash remuneration to R12 500 by July 2017.

So far, employees have forfeited wages of about R9.7 billion, according to a website set up by the companies www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za. The industry has lost R21.8 billion in earnings.

Levy said he did not see a solution to the strike any time soon and, no matter what happened, mineworkers would lose their jobs.

“There is going to be blood in the gutters,” he said.

Levy warned that if mining companies hired new employees later, the current workers would kill them.

“There would be civil war in the area,” he said.

Healy said platinum producers would need to start implementing retrenchment processes.

“This will get unions’ and workers’ attention.”

He described the current impasse as a “high noon” confrontation.

“It’s the first to blink and it will have to be Amcu. It doesn’t matter what we think. They are not going to get it. Whether they deserve it or not,” he said, referring to the R12 500 wage demand.

“What will happen is that strikers will come back with their tails between their legs ... and their bargaining position and their power would have decreased,” he said.

The duration of the strike would depend on the will of the workers.

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