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Platinum producers slate Amcu over wage demands

Sapa

Amcu's refusal to revise its wage demands reflect little regard for potential job losses, says platinum producers.

Members of Amcu at Lonmin, Amplats and Impala Platinum (Implats) went on a protected strike on January 23. (Oupa Nkosi)

Platinum producers said on Wednesday that Amcu's refusal to revise its wage demands reflect little regard for potential job losses.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) chairperson Chris Griffith said negotiations required give and take from all parties.

"The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union refuse to accept the economic circumstances facing this industry," he said in Johannesburg.

"[Amcu] clearly have no, or little, interest in preserving jobs."

Members of Amcu at Lonmin, Amplats and Impala Platinum (Implats) went on a protected strike on January 23, demanding a basic salary of R12 500 per month, for miners.

The three platinum companies reduced their workforce from a combined 145 000 in December 2011 to less than 134 000 in December last year.

The platinum producers proposed a three-year agreement last month, offering a 9% increase for A-level, the lowest paid workers, 8.5% for B-level and 7.5% for C-level workers in the first year.

For the second year, an 8% increase was proposed for A-level workers, 7.5% for B-level workers and 7% for C-level workers.

In the third year of the proposed agreement, both A and B-level workers would get 7.5% and C-level 7%.

Costs
Lonmin chairperson Ben Magara said: "These increases are significantly higher than the inflation rate of 5.4%. This is as [far] as we can go without being irresponsible." He said entry-level mining salaries were higher than those of any other labour-intensive industry.

Implats chairperson Terence Goodlace said costs of platinum production had grown significantly over the last five years, while productivity continued to slide.

The producers said workers who met their production targets had the capacity to earn more than Amcu's demand of R12 500 per month, before tax.

Magara said there was a possibility the current offer would need to be reduced.

"What could happen tomorrow, we don't know. There may come a time when this is not affordable."

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration has been brokering talks between the union and the platinum companies since January 24.

Amplats on Saturday said it would sue Amcu for compensation for damages and losses suffered during the work stoppage.

"The provisional quantum of the damages claim is about R591-million, although as Amcu's wrongful conduct is continuing the damages will continue to accrue," spokesperson Mpumi Sithole said at the time.

Massive losses
On Monday morning, Amplats said it was losing about R100-million a day because of the strike, which was in its fourth week.

"The company is losing 4 000 ounces amounting to R100-million in revenue daily," Sithole said in an email.

Griffith was asked whether the mineral resources department had encouraged the company to approach the courts, but he did not give a definitive answer.

He said he did not believe the strike had irrevocably damaged the sector.

"We cannot afford the strike to continue much longer. It is undermining confidence in South Africa and undermining confidence in narrow reef mining in South Africa."

On miners' living conditions, Griffith said the platinum producers were going "over and above the requirements of the Mining Charter".

Magara said the strikes were not helping these efforts.

"Thriving business makes it possible to improve living conditions." – Sapa

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