Amcu accepts government mediation offer in mining strike

2014-01-23 16:00

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The president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), Joseph Mathunjwa, says the union will accept government’s offer to mediate on wage talks with Anglo Platinum, Lonmin and Impala.

However, he says the strikes will continue until their demands have been met.

Speaking to a crowd of miners who had gathered in the scorching heat in Marikana, he said: “As soon as they [government] heard that we would be striking, [Deputy President] Kgalema Motlanthe called me. Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant called Nactu [National Council of Trade Unions] to ask if we would meet her. I told Nactu that Oliphant should contact us, not the affiliate, if she wants to meet us.”

According to Mathunjwa, Motlanthe said government would like to be involved in negotiations because a drawn-out strike across the platinum sector would only hurt the economy. Government wants to facilitate the talks between the three main companies and its role will not be to take sides.

“Government will sit in during the negotiations and watch us as we take on the big three. I told you, comrades, that to fight for your rights you don’t need to be part of the alliance. You can do this on your own. I told government I would not take the decision on my own. That’s why I have come to you now. I’m not a dictator,” he said.

Mathunjwa said Amcu shop stewards had spoken to members of the other two mines and they had agreed that government could assist in the negotiations.

Lonmin miners also agreed on government mediation.

“When we see that government is starting to take sides, then we will easily show them the door and we’ll carry on, on our own. They will not take decisions for us or bully us. But before any decision is taken, I will return to you for you to decide.”

Mathunjwa said he would return to Motlanthe and Oliphant and ask when discussions could start.

“Now with all of them under one roof, we can ask government how they feel when we continue to vote for them while we are earning a mere R4 500,” he said.

Amcu said it would no longer discuss any raises based on percentages, but would demand R12 500.

“This demand is to give our children a better future. There is no turning back. Our brothers’ blood was spilt for this R12 500. We can’t betray them now,” he said.

Mathunjwa also defined the role of the union and said it would not be associated with any political party.

“This is a strike for members of Amcu. This is a union that is not affiliated to any political party. When you leave this meeting, we won’t dictate to you about which political party you want to join. During our strikes though, which you have sacrificed your daily wages for, you don’t bring any politics here. We don’t want this fight to be turned into a political battlefield. When you are here, we are dealing with Amcu issues,” he said.

By early afternoon, the strike had broken up after starting late because of transport issues.

Amcu members and supporters started to gather at the Wonderkop Stadium just after 7am. The stadium is a stone’s throw away from the koppie where 34 people were killed in the 2012 mass strike.

Amcu chairperson in the Lonmin branch, Jack Khoba, said the union had requested buses from the “employer” (Lonmin) but the request was turned down.

Later on, Mathunjwa thanked the miners for their patience and cooperation as no pangas or assegais were brought to the march.

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