AMPLATS plans to sell off the Rustenburg and Union platinum mines in the wake of the wage settlement is nothing short ofeconomic terrorism. There is no better way to term their latest stunt.
What they are doing, by selling off these core assets, is designed to send the fear of the devil into the hearts of workers and to cower them into low-wage settlements in future. This stunt is meant to instill the inherent fear that employers would retrench employees should they demand what they are truly worth – a living wage.
Although the Chief Executive, Chris Griffiths, of Amplats says plans where already afoot at the beginning of the year (February 2014) to divest from the two mines, the acerbic comments which came from his office during the 6-months AMCU strike leaves little to the imagination as to the disdain Amplats and its parents company, Anglo American, had towards workers’ demands.
I support atrophy based on solid business cases, but this is a different matter. Rustenburg and Union are responsible, at least, for a fourth of the group’s total output of 2,3 million ounces of platinum per year, and I am sure also for its profits. This is a large contribution and it shows that the group, and its executive team, is trying to send a chilling message to the workers, unions and to the economy as whole that, ‘respect Capital or Capital will deal with you!
This is nothing but cowardice. I suggest that there should be a law against this, to stem such cowardice by large corporates, before the trend catches on in other companies and industries. The LRA (Labour Relations Act) makes provision for a legal withholding of labour by employees, in the case where there is a dispute between an employer and an employee, until a settlement is reached. That inherent right also means that, if done within the confines of the law, no worker should fear that they will bargain for what they think is a ‘fair settlement’, in terms of wages, today, only to be on the long queues for unemployment insurance tomorrow, when the employer forces a fire-sale of its assets.
As a developing economy, there are many things we are having to correct and accelerate as our democracy matures, in order to build a just and an equitable society, and we will not achieve equity if we still have unpatriotic Capital, like Amplats, in the country.
I, therefore, urge the powers-that-be to hurry and table legislation that would make what Amplats is doing illegal soon and to force other players to respect the workers’ right to strike and to fair bargaining.
What is your take?
*Tshepo is editor-in-chief for YBS Media (www.ybsmedia.co.za)