Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) turned up in their numbers at the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Dressed in the union’s green T-shirts, they occupied three of the five benches in the courtroom, chatting to each other before court proceedings started. The court was to hear the matter regarding the Chamber of Mines’s bid to prevent an Amcu strike in the gold sector.
The chamber approached the court after Amcu issued strike notices in January. The union issued strike notices to employers in the gold and platinum sector demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500.
Gold producers have concluded a wage agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is the majority union in the gold sector. Amcu members in the platinum sector went on strike in January. They downed tools at Lonmin, Impala Platinum, and Anglo American Platinum on January 23, demanding a basic salary of R12 500 per month. They rejected the companies’ offer that would bring their cash remuneration to R12 500 by July 2017.
Meanwhile, platinum producers asked for time to consider a pay proposal from the union before government-brokered talks resume on Thursday.
Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi met with chief executive officers from platinum producers in Pretoria on Wednesday, “during which a proposal from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union was presented”, the department said in a statement.
The minister is driving an effort to resolve the stoppage to limit further harm to Africa’s second-largest economy.
The strike has cost employees R9.3-billion in earning and companies have lost R21-billion in revenue according to the website www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za created by the producers.
Amcu is the dominant union in the platinum sector after it ousted the NUM in 2012, following a wildcat strike at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in the North West. At the time, rock drill operators rejected the NUM and spearheaded the strike demanding a monthly salary of R12 500.
The strike turned violent and 44 people were killed. Thirty-four people, mostly mineworkers, died on August 16 2012 when police fired on them, apparently attempting to disarm and disperse them. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week. President Jacob Zuma appointed retired judge Ian Farlam to chair a commission of inquiry into the shooting. – Sapa, additional reporting Bloomberg