Amcu, platinum mines reach deal ‘in principle’

Shop stewards from striking Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) urged leader Joseph Mathunjwa to sign a wage deal with the three major platinum firms on Thursday at a dramatic mass rally, crowning nearly five months of industrial action.

Cheers erupted from the crowd of thousands of miners as one senior union official took the microphone to declare: “Sign, Mathunjwa, sign.”

“This union has worked. We want this money. We come from hardships. Amcu has worked. We can’t take kids to school. Sign Mathunjwa,” another union leader added.

Earlier, the three platinum firms – Anglo American Platinum , Impala Platinum and Lonmin – said they had reached “in principle undertakings” with the leaders of the longest strike in the history of South Africa’s mines.

They did not disclose details of the offer.

“The principles that underpin the proposals seek to achieve a sustainable future for the three platinum companies for the benefit of all stakeholders and to afford employees the best possible increase under the current financial circumstances,” Lonmin said in a statement.

Impala offered to improve the basic monthly wage of its lowest-paid miners by R1 000 rand in the first and second years, Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama told workers as he read from a letter by the company dated Wednesday. That compares with a previous plan of 
R580 in year one and R680 in year two.

It also offered an increase of R950 a month in years three to five of the proposal, compared with R750 in year three, R840 in year four and R900 in year five, he said.

“We are not disclosing the details until we have heard back from Amcu,” said Charmane Russell, a spokesperson for the three producers at Russell and Associates. “The process is a very sensitive one and we will ensure that we act in good faith.”

Meanwhile, Impala spokesperson Johan Theron said, “This is not an offer. The only agreement we have is that the union will go back to members and refresh its mandate.” 

The companies and Amcu will hold further talks should union members respond positively, Theron said.

Shares in Lonmin jumped almost 8%, while Impala Platinum stock climbed 1.5%. However, Anglo American Platinum slipped around 1%.

Spot platinum prices fell more than 2%. The strike by the 70 000 Amcu members, which started on January 23, dragged Africa’s most advanced economy into contraction in the first quarter of the year, and piled pressure on the rand because of the threat to foreign exchange earnings. – Reuters, additional reporting by Bloomberg

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