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Why mine wage talks failed

11 June 2014, 18:12

The 5–month AMCU–led strike over pay in the platinum belt, which started on January 14, 2014, by over 70,000 platinum miners continues unabated. The latest round of wage negotiations by government to resolve the crisis was an epic fail.

But why has wage talks between AMCU and mining producers deadlocked? There are three important reasons.

a)      Shattered trust

When Lonmin and Implats lobbied striking employees directly via SMS, bypassing AMCU, in a desperate bid to end the strike, it aroused much suspicion.

Moreover, this action shattered the fragile trust and decimated good faith in the bargaining process. Seen as a propaganda ploy to undermine the strike, AMCU lodged an urgent application with the Labour court for interdict against mining bosses. The court dismissed such an application as not urgent.

The SMS campaign was a counter–productive and costly exercise as parties are more distrusting and sceptic than before.

b)     Dysfunctional wage talk formation

So far the bargaining process had turned into anxious toil on a slippery slope of uncertainty. This is because these wage talks became trapped, entangled in a parallel universe: an armada of battle–hardened emissaries – mediators, negotiators, advisors and a rear–guard of partisans engaging relentlessly, immune to reality. Such a formation is dysfunctional.

For months these industry warriors lingered in mortal dual, oblivious to the macro–economic impact of their contest. And when no settlement was reached, negotiations collapsed.

To avert a further crisis, impatient stakeholders intervened but did more damage than good. Amid reports of finger–pointing and blame–shifting amongst parties, the CCMA was brought in to resolve the conflict. It was a vain effort.

In late May the Minister of energy resources, Mr. Ramatlodi, rallied a technical task team to hammer out a wage deal. At the time, he said that failure was not an option. Indeed. Hardly a week later it emerged that their bosberaad was futile. On June 9, 2014 government pulled out of the fray.

The strike can go on indefinitely. There are no deadlock-breaking mechanisms in place and the rivals cannot be held accountable either.

c)      Being misinformed

AMCU is being misinformed by its trusted advisor, the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC). By insisting on a R12 500 wage demand, the average miner has already lost 45.5% in wages this year due the strike because of AIDC’s advice. AIDC, who trumps the miner’s welfare swathed in its own communist ideology, slams mining companies for stashing R15bn overseas.

Mining companies in turn deny this claim as specious and it’s rather odd that shareholders, auditors and government did not notice this.

Advising people to strike themselves into abject poverty and hunger should be a criminal offence.[i]

On the other hand, mining companies are ill-informed about the plight of miners, who believe that on an 8% offer they can’t to survive daily.

The families – spouses and children – of striking miners bear the brunt of this mining crisis because they’re at risk of malnutrition due to a lack of food and basic necessities. Parties therefore need to find a way to end the strike soon.


[i] “Mine advisors: Friend or foe?” Die Burger, Jun 10, 2014, http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Mine-advisors-Friend-or-foe-20140610. Accessed Jun 10, 2014.

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