Citing the bible, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa defended the union’s wage demand of R17 000 for the lowest paid workers in the platinum sector.
“It is proper to quote John 3:3 that saaid that unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven,” he said.
Mathunjwa has vowed to continue lead the union’s 60 000 members in the platinum sector to the “kingdom of heaven” at their respective mines where their demand of what would amount to a 47% are met by the employers.
“We need a new order, a new way of dealing with the economy of this country. We cannot be fed with the aroma of democracy when other people are eating it,” Mathunjwa said a media briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“We believe that these demands are realistic in the current environment and to address the socio-economic needs of mineworkers,” he said.
The Amcu leader launched a scathing attack on platinum miners, who he said have presented disappointing offers during wage negotiations in the precious metals sector. Mathunjwa saaid Platinum Metals Group (PGM) miners have made billion dollar profits in the last year, but South African miner Lonmin, acquired by Sibanye this year is offering workers much lower wages compared to the other mines.
“For Sibanye to say that they cannot give workers an increase, surely they are up for war. They are provoking us. They want to push us to the edge of the cliff,” he said.
Mathunjwa said Lonmin has currently offered workers in category A and category B, the lowest skilled, basic wage increases of R300 a year increase for the first year, R350 for the second year and R400 increase for the third year. He has described the offer as a “slap in the face” for workers. The offer for category C and D is a below-inflation 3,3% increase.
Mathunjwa said that Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has tabled a three-year agreement offering R1 000 in the first year, Impala Platinum (Implats) has offered R800 increase in the first year and Sibanye R700 for its Rustenburg operations. He said that although the offers from the employers are far from what Amcu members have asked for, there is still “light at the end of the tunnel”.
Sibanye has previously indicated that the demand of the union are high. Spokesperson for the mine, James Wellstead said that the offer made to Amcu reflect the “current financial and operating position” at its Marikana operations.
“Amcu’s demands are unaffordable and would affect the sustainability of the Marikana operations, with possible negative implications for jobs and for local communities,” he said.
During the release of its financial results last month, Amplats chief executive, Chris Griffiths warned the union that its wage demand is still unaffordable in spite the miners taxed profits sky rocketing from R2,3-billion in the previous financial year to R7,36-billion this year.
Mathujwa said that the union has not ruled out a strike in the sector should its demands not be met. “Mining houses I know that you’ve put in money to say that you can withstand a strike but you don’t know what is our strategy. I’m telling you to fasten your seatbelt,” he said.