Government steps in to mediate platinum strike

2014-05-28 20:10
The colourful green and red T-shirts of members of rival unions NUM and Amcu in the auditorium of the Rustenburg Civic Centre during proceedings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Picture: (Lucas Ledwaba, City Press)

The colourful green and red T-shirts of members of rival unions NUM and Amcu in the auditorium of the Rustenburg Civic Centre during proceedings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Picture: (Lucas Ledwaba, City Press)

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Johannesburg - Government-mediated talks will start on Thursday to try to break a deadlock between the union and top global platinum producers over a crippling four-month strike, the mining ministry said.

A panel drawn from the mining, labour and finance ministries will take up the baton dropped by the Labour Court earlier this week when wage talks between the parties collapsed.

New mining minister Ngoako Ramathlodi set up the team after meeting executives of Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin on Wednesday.

The talks came as firms reported billions of dollars in lost revenue and wages due to the stoppages, contributing to a contraction in the country's economy in the first quarter of the year.

"All parties are hurting. The workers are hurting. We have no option but to find an amicable solution," he said in a statement.

The platinum producers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have been holding on-off talks since 80 000 workers went on strike on 23 January.

Employees are demanding entry-level wages more than double to R12 500 per month. Employers have so far offered a broader package of changes that would only see wages rise that high from 2017.

The mining and labour ministries involved themselves in mediation efforts using independent negotiators in the early stages of the strike, with little success.

No deal

The Labour Court waded into the fray last week to try to broker a deal, also to no avail.

Ramathlhodi, who was appointed last weekend when President Jacob Zuma announced his new cabinet, told local radio on Wednesday that the talks mediated by a judge had broken down.

On Tuesday, he met with the AMCU, which leads the strike that has crimped production in world's richest platinum belt.

The companies say they have lost almost €1.5bn in production revenue since the stoppages started, while workers have lost almost €630 000 in wages.

Data released on Tuesday showed the economy shrank by 0.6% in the first quarter, largely due to a slump in the mining sector.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  amcu  |  labour
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