South African strike talks suspended until Tuesday

February 2, 2014
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South Africa's platinum mine workers stage a protest after they rejected a fresh wage offer at a public meeting in Marikana on January 30, 2014/AFP
South Africa’s platinum mine workers stage a protest after they rejected a fresh wage offer at a public meeting in Marikana on January 30, 2014/AFP

, JOHANNESBURG, Feb 2 – Wage talks between a militant South African union and three major platinum mine owners have been adjourned until Tuesday, government mediators said.

“Details of the content of discussions between parties may not be revealed,” they said, adding that they had made proposals that the two sides will consider.

“Talks will resume on Tuesday,” the government’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration said in a statement.

Jimmy Gama of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) that launched the strike of around 80,000 miners on January 23, crippling the platinum sector, told AFP: “The employers need time to reflect on the proposals, and they will do an offer on Tuesday.”

Gama, the union’s treasurer, also refused to divulge the contents of the talks.

For their part, the CEOs of the world’s top three platinum producers Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin said they would continue efforts to resolve the dispute while raising the spectre of restructuring and layoffs if the strike persisted.

“It is imperative that a resolution is affordable, achievable and sustainable,” Chris Griffith, Terence Goodlace and Ben Magara said in a joint statement.

Even before the strike began, “around 45 percent of platinum operations in South Africa failed to break even,” they said.

“Prolonged strike action will result in more losses, and further fundamental restructuring and, inevitably, this will have an impact on jobs and indeed the economy,” the CEOs added.

“Between our three companies we lose on average around 200 million rands (13 million euros, $18 million) per day in revenue,” they said, adding that their employees “bear the brunt of this loss, losing around 88 million rand per day in wages”.

AMCU members on Thursday forcefully rejected an initial offer of wage increases of seven percent for each of the next three years.

Gama warned Friday that the strike could go on for a month if no progress is made towards satisfying the miners’ demand of a base monthly salary of 12,500 rands (820 euros, $1,150), about double their current pay.

It is the same demand that spurred 2012 strikes, which turned violent and resulted in the police shooting dead 34 miners on one day.

The companies are looking for a long term agreement in the hope of preventing what have become regular strikes.

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