Mine strike could drive up petrol price

Johannesburg - The ongoing strike in the platinum mining belt could affect petrol and food prices in the long run, warned economist Mike Schüssler on Wednesday.

He was presenting the 2014 Uasa South African Employment Report in Johannesburg and said the strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is hurting the economy.

"The longer the strike carries on, the more sectors it influences and it damages the economy quite clearly," he said.

The current account, which was already weak, would negatively affect the rand so inflation and the buying power of the consumer would also be negatively affected.

Schüssler said the strike plays a big role in the confidence in the economy. The economy could recover, he added, but it would take time.

He also said the strike is taking workers into poverty.

"The mining companies are losing, but the biggest loser in this strike are the workers on the ground."

Amcu members at Lonmin [JSE:LON], Impala Platinum (Implats) [JSE:IMP] and Anglo Platinum (Amplats) [JSE:AMS] downed tools on January 23. Schüssler said the strike was the longest in the private sector in South African history since the 1987 miners' strike.

"Every week this strike goes on, more people will be affected."

"Job security is under severe pressure."

Schüssler said the strike was affecting between 150 000 and 200 000 people, but with dependants and family members included this number could be 700 000.

In the past two years, eight million work days had been lost due to strikes.

"This is more than 42 days lost per person working in the sector," he said.

Entry level workers had so far lost about R26 775 a person in wages alone and R5 016 in benefits.

Speaking on the sidelines, Schüssler said one of the problems facing the current strike would be for Amcu to find a way out of the strike, because there was a limited amount of "exit-strategy" left.

"The members have now been hurt beyond recognition... and I don't think that this union understands the strategic impact that they are having on the economy," he said.

"I think the normal member on the ground knows what the effect is, I think there is either intimidation... or they have been promised something that is not attainable. Ultimately, they are the actual biggest losers - the people on strike."

Schüssler said South Africa was one of very few countries where strikes had been increasing in the past few years, but he believed strikes would play a lesser role in future.

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