Govt must start treating Amcu with respect, says new mining minister

2014-05-27 09:41

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New Mining Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has pledged to mediate in a crippling platinum strike now in its fifth month and said the government needed to start treating the striking Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) with respect.

Ramatlhodi, who was sworn in yesterday evening, also told radio station Power FM that mining companies had not done enough “to address the wellbeing of workers”, particularly in relation to the squalid living conditions seen around many mines.

The three main platinum firms – Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin – have been through several rounds of talks with Amcu, but have made little headway in narrowing the gap in their wage demands.

The strike is now the longest in the history of South Africa’s mines. Another round of talks, mediated by a labour court judge, kicked off last week and is still going.

Ramatlhodi, an advocate who served as deputy prisons minister in President Jacob Zuma’s previous administration, has a reputation as an African nationalist who believes whites retain too much control of Africa’s most advanced economy.

He would start strike mediation as soon as he had been briefed on his new portfolio by department officials, he told Johannesburg’s Talk Radio 702.

"I will receive a briefing from my team so that I have a sense of the issues that are holding the agreement back and then begin to mediate," he was quoted as saying by the radio station.

"Amcu is a legitimate union. According to the laws of this country, they've qualified to be a player in the mines where they are playing. So government must begin to treat them with respect and give them the dignity that is due to any trade union that qualifies," he told Power FM in a separate interview.

The strike has cost the producers almost R20 billion and counting in revenue while employees havelost almost R9 billion in wages, according to an industry website that tallies the figures.

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