Mines must cut reckless spending on overtime to meet demand – Amcu

2014-05-05 15:19

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The Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) today slammed platinum companies’ stated plans to organise strike breakers as well as other “desperate attempts to break the strike”.

The platinum strike led by Amcu has now dragged on for about 14 weeks.

After tabling a slightly improved “settlement offer”, the companies last week launched a campaign to gauge how many of their employees are willing to break the strike, accept the standing offer and go back to work.

If enough people with the requisite skills can be garnered, the companies are intent on reopening parts of their mining operations while Amcu’s strike continues.

The campaign is premised on the allegation that a large component of the striking workforce is either being misled or intimidated into not accepting the offer.

“These are old tactics, they will try their best to break the strike and demoralise our members,” said Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa at a media briefing today.

He countered allegations from the companies that Amcu is misrepresenting the actual preferences of its members by relying only on mass meetings in the Rustenburg area to get mandates on company offers.

“Amcu never uses SMSes. We call mass meetings.

“We know members rejected the offer.”

Mathunjwa also rejected the commonplace observation that a very large share of striking employees have returned to their homes in the Eastern Cape and neighbouring countries to wait out the strike.

“Maybe the media can tell us who is in the Eastern Cape. The majority are at the mines,” said Mathunjwa.

The rejection of the companies’ offer is properly mandated, he said.

The Amcu demand current stands at achieving a basic wage of R12?500 in four years (by the end of 2016) while all the other elements of remuneration increase by the inflation rate every year.

Currently the basic wage, for the entry-level underground workers, varies between R5?000 and R5?700 at the different companies.

Mathunjwa also admitted that the strike fund launched last month with an initial R1m contribution from Amcu, has not drawn the kind of donations the union had been hoping for.

“There are good Samaritans, but it has not come as we had expected.”

The National Council of Trade Unions, to which Amcu belongs, has suggested that it may try to get all its affiliates to contribute to the Amcu strike warchest.

Mathunjwa also said Amcu is not receiving union fees from the companies as part of the no-work-no-pay principle.

Amcu today indicated it wants the platinum companies to meet its demands – at least in part – by curtailing “reckless spending on overtime that predominantly benefited managerial employees”.

The amounts paid to workers in higher income categories than Amcu’s membership receive a disproportionate share of overtime expenditure, it argues.

This is one of a number of “saving mechanisms in order to finance the wage increases”, Amcu is trying to bring to the table.

Suggestions of this type have been roundly rejected, says the union.

Amcu is being assisted in the wage talks by the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), a pro-union think tank.

AIDC researcher Dick Forslund accompanied Amcu’s leadership at today’s press conference to explain their new approach to the talks.

According to him, Amcu is now trying to seriously challenge the companies’ claim that the demanded increase is utterly “unaffordable”.

Anglo American Platinum allegedly came to the talks with a cost analysis that significantly overstates the amount of employees it has – thus inflating the cost of the demand.

Neither Impala of Lonmin have provided any kind of details about how they are determining the affordability of the demand, says Amcu.

According to Forslund, this leaves Amcu with “no basis for rational negotiations”.

The limited information from Amplats, however, seems to show that the parties are not worlds apart after all.

“We see it as an opening.”

Forslund also put much of the blame for Amplats’ stance during the strike on the influence of Anglo American majority shareholder and chief executive Mark Cutifani.

The profit rates that Anglo expects from its subsidiary are incompatible with stable labour relations, said Forslund.

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