Platinum wage impasse looms as companies refuse to budge

2014-02-19 18:07

Wage talks in the platinum sector are apparently fast approaching a breakdown with the companies refusing to “contemplate anything above” their last offer made on January 29.

The CEOs of the country’s three major platinum companies held a collective press conference this afternoon to announce their stance and lambast the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) for “refusing to accept the circumstances facing the industry” and “disregarding the rights of non-strikers”.

The CEOs threatened “inevitable” job losses and restructuring if the strike drags on.

However, when asked if their stockpiles have helped them weather the strike without massive losses, the CEOs were evasive.

The companies had earlier claimed that they lose “on average R200 million in revenue” per strike day.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) CEO Chris Griffith today said he did not want to disclose how much stockpile Amplats has, but admitted that it was helping them.

Terence Goodlace of Impala Platinum said it was uncertain how long the stockpiles would last.

Analysts have estimated that the companies should be able to absorb the strike for up to six weeks.

Amcu launched the strike at Amplats, Impala and Lonmin on January 23 after talks since June last year.

According to the companies, the standing offer was “generous and nearly unaffordable”.

They say the offer sets the minimum basic wage underground at between R6 300 and R7 200 as opposed to Amcu’s demand of R12 500.

On top of this, workers receive various allowances.

The companies claim that these wages are better than those in any other labour-intensive industry.

Goodlace said there was little chance of one of the three companies breaking ranks to settle with Amcu alone at a different level.

Griffith said the company was considering another legal route to battle Amcu after filing summons to sue it for R590 million last Friday.

He denied that Amplats had been advised to sue Amcu for a sum that would inevitably destroy it by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, as had been reported earlier in the week.

Amplats is now considering having Amcu’s strike declared unprotected, which in terms of labour law would allow it to fire strikers, Griffith said in reponse to questions.

Impala and Lonmin have sent non-strikers home and shut down operations while Griffith says Amplats still has 10% to 15% of employees on site although many are being kept away by intimidation.

He was the most outspoken of the three and accused Amcu members of “seeking to force us to settle with violence and criminal acts”.

This is in reference to incidents of intimidation at Amplats operations where non-strikers have, according to the company, been continuously blocked from the mines.

Ben Magara, CEO of Lonmin, said the strike started calmly at his company, but has begun showing signs of intimidation.

The three companies obtained interdicts from the Labour Court to get Amcu members to keep to picketing rules that had been approved by the CCMA.

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