Talks for central council lose steam

2012-10-27 10:53

Negotiations on the establishment of a central bargaining platform for the platinum mining industry is losing momentum.

This as labour relations at most of the sector’s operators have started to normalise.

In addition, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said it would not return to negotiations.

Talks on the formation of a central bargaining platform started in earnest at the beginning of this month following the violent strike that brought Lonmin, the world’s third-biggest platinum miner, to a standstill for more than a month.

When the wildcat strikes started to spread to the operations of other platinum producers, the formation of such a scheme – resisted by the industry’s employers for years – was regarded as a priority.

The parties had set out to have a framework in place by the end of the month.

Amcu, which is thought to have won thousands of new members disaffected with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), withdrew from the process in the middle of last month with a demand that the latter publicly retract accusations that it was behind the assassination of NUM members.

The Chamber of Mines’ chief negotiator, Elize Strydom, said on Thursday that the deadline for month end was still in place, with the qualification that the “pressure was on the stakeholders and facilitators to have something concrete over centralised bargaining soon”.

Strydom said the facilitators of the talks have been in contact with Amcu over the trade union’s participation.

“They (Amcu) are a factor in platinum. They are a factor at some of the companies and it would be better to involve all the stakeholders and makethem all part of the process,” she said.

A senior official of another union, however, said he doubted whether an agreement would be in place by the end of the month, blaming employers for losing interest in the process.

The only platinum producer that continues to be affected by strikes is Anglo American Platinum.

“A lot of the momentum has gone,” said a senior official. “One gets the sense they (employers) are having second thoughts on whether they think it is wise to cooperate (with one another) on such matters.”

On Friday, Amcu said the establishment of bargaining forum for the platinum sector was “not a bad idea at all”.

It said, however, that there was a danger to focus on a centralised bargaining process without dealing with the causes of labour unrest.

“It is our strongest opinion that no structure formed in one or two months can be able to address the problems of the mining industry, which have existed for decades,” said Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa.

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