The deal to end the platinum strike

2014-06-15 15:00

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The deal that looks set to end this year’s platinum strike after five months could be as historic as the strike itself.

The three separate “settlement principle” documents given to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) on Wednesday to take to its members, which City Press has copies of, shows how the haggling continued to the last minute.

Lonmin’s document has handwritten amendments, seemingly made by CEO Ben Magara, while Amcu crossed out a possibly controversial clause that would make it “accept that restructuring is inevitable in the short to medium term”.

Among the notes are possible extra concessions from the company like upgrading the all-important rock-drill operators to higher job grades, further improving their position.

Lonmin has attached more caveats to its offer than have the other two companies, Impala Platinum (Implats) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats).

Lonmin wants Amcu to agree that “there will be no strikes related to any of the items covered by the wage agreement”.

The basic design of all three offers involves a significant change to how mine workers’ pay is made up as well as a steep reduction in the inequality between people doing different jobs underground.

The overall idea is to boost the basic wage as much as possible – at the cost of allowances and pension contributions, which will often reduce in real terms.

All three companies offer variants of a flat R1?000 annual increase to basic wages for lower-grade employees – and are gunning for a five-year deal on those terms. But by the end of the proposed five years, most mine workers will still have basic wages lower than R12?500.

At Implats, the offer would increase the lowest basic wage for surface workers from R4?973 to R9?823 by 2017, while the lowest underground wage will be R10?800. The highest category, C4, will see a wage increase from R15?300 to R22?638.

That means the wage gap falls from 308 times what the CEO earns compared with the lowest-paid worker, to 230 times. The compression is more extreme in lower categories.

In a letter to Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa, Implats says this is still “well beyond what the company can afford”, and the company threatened that the offer could be withdrawn at any time.

The companies all want Amcu to defer any nonwage concerns to task teams after work has resumed.

Amplats, the company least affected by the strike thanks to its unaffected opencast operations in Limpopo, also wants Amcu to “agree to discuss” a “productivity agreement”.

It has pledged “humanitarian” support for returning mine workers which includes “food parcels, transport and health supplements” up to the first pay cheque.

After last year’s gold strike, the gold companies agreed to tackle the scourge of illegal garnishment orders. Amplats has gone beyond this, saying it has “taken legal action against lawyers engaged in inappropriate garnishee activities and will not process such deductions”.

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