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Latest News - June 2014

June 18, 2014
Miners keen to work as union presents new demands
Source: Business Live
By: Karl Gernetzy

EVEN as platinum producers consider the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu’s) written response to their settlement offer, workers are already streaming back to the platinum belt in anticipation of the resumption of mining activity.

There is a possibility that a deal that would end the longest strike in South Africa’s mining history could be reached in the next few days, the companies said on Tuesday.

Both Impala Platinum (Implats) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the biggest of the three companies affected by the strike, have confirmed that they are considering Amcu’s response, which also encompasses new demands.

"The last couple of steps are always the hardest, and the talks are at the most sensitive stage now," Implats spokesman Johan Theron said. "We’re hopeful a deal can be reached within a matter of days, but there’s a level of leadership required on both sides to get there."

The trade union is holding out for a R12, 500 basic salary for the lowest-paid employees in the three years to 2017. The companies have offered to reach that level in five years, with a R1,000 a month increment for the first two years, to be followed by a R950 a month increase thereafter.

The offer represents an increase of up to 20% for the lowest-paid employees, whose take-home pay, including housing allowances, is now R6,000 a month.

Other categories will get 13% extra in the lowest two bands. The annual consumer price inflation was 6.1% in April.

"Our negotiators and our chief executives will be in touch with their counterparts in the union," said Mr Theron. He said the stakeholders are "trying to bring closure in the best possible and sustainable way."

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole declined to disclose the content of Amcu’s letter.

"We’ll respond to Amcu at an appropriate time," she said.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey did not return telephone calls and text messages soliciting comment.

Contained in the union’s letter is a demand that Lonmin reinstate more than 200 essential services employees it dismissed during the course of the strike that has nearly shut all of its operations.

Mr Theron said employers had made it clear their offer was at their financial limit, and any changes to the agreement needed to recognise employers "are not in a position to increase the cash on the table".

A visit on Monday to the Sondela and Seraleng informal settlements surrounding the mines in Rustenburg showed that workers are slowly streaming back from their home villages around the country where many waited out the strike. Life is slowly edging back to normal, with many optimistically talking about going back to work soon.

The strike has been worth the sacrifice the workers endured, going over four months without an income, said Tshezi, a man who identified himself only by his clan name.

"We hope we’ll go back to work soon, and we’ve mostly got what we went on strike for."

His friends are also ready to come back from the Eastern Cape, and phone daily to get an update.

Many women and children filled the streets of the settlement near Implats’ 9C shaft and Amplats’ Khuseleka mine, a stark difference from a visit three weeks ago.

Mr Theron said on Tuesday there had been a major uptick in communication from employees who were positive about the strike coming to an end and returning to work. "It seems clear they have psychologically accepted the strike is coming to an end," he said.



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