About 70,000 AMCU members downed tools in January at platinum mines run by Amplats, Implats and Lonmin to demand that their basic wages be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month. Marred at times by violence, the strike has hit 40 percent of global production of the precious metal used for emissions capping catalytic converters in automobiles.
The five-month platinum stoppage appears to be winding down, as Amcu’s leaders report back at mass rallies beginning in Rustenburg today on a series of meetings with producers that concluded over the weekend. The meetings were with individual producers and aimed at putting the final touches of a wage deal to end South Africa’s longest and most damaging strike.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which represents the more than 70,000 strikers, will present pay proposals made by Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS), Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP) and Lonmin Plc (LMI) to workers today. Members will gather at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg northwest of Johannesburg, said Evans Ramokga, an official of the union at Amplats, as the biggest producer is known.
“By Wednesday, workers will be returning if they accept the offer,” Ramokga said by phone. Platinum producers say they’ve lost 23.9 billion rand in sales (£1.3bn, $2.2bn) and that workers have missed out on 10.6 billion rand in wages since the walkout began. South Africa’s economy contracted in the first quarter as the strike cut mining production by the most since 1967.
So far the mining companies involved, Anglo American Platinum, Imapla Platinum and Lonmin, have not commented. Management are meeting the AMCU on Tuesday when the deal is expected to be signed.
National Freedom Party secretary general Nhlanhla Khubisa on Saturday called for an end to the five month long platinum sector strike. “The ongoing strike in the mining industry has impacted the economy of our country negatively,” Khubisa said. He said the NFP believed that through an intense dialogue amongst the parties a solution can be reached.
“I’m very glad the strike is over, because we made a terrible wound in the South African economy and we are happy to heal that wound. Our children are suffering because they had no food,” said Lucas Makgwe, a miner at Amplats.
Mathunjwa, a Salvation Army lay preacher who casts himself as a class warrior doing battle for downtrodden black miners whose lives have changed little in the 20 years since apartheid ended, was exultant.
“Today we are creating a historic day in the mining sector,” Mathunjwa, clad in a trademark AMCU green shirt, told the crowd.
“The platinum sector will never be the same. What other unions have failed to do over many years, you have achieved in five months.”
Meanwhile, the country’s labour court has declared unlawful a planned gold mining strike by the same union AMCU, gold producers said Monday. “Historically, the gold industry has always conducted wage negotiations at a centralised level and the process has always been inclusive and fair. Going forward, we will continue to bargain in good faith with the elected representatives of employees,” she said.
South Africa holds around 80% of the world’s known platinum reserves. So far stockpiles have kept the markets supplied with the metal, which is key for producing catalytic converters used to reduce automotive pollution.
The South African rand gained almost 1% to 10.5575 to the US dollar, it’s strongest since 9 June.
June 24th edit: Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS), Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc (LMI) each signed three-year agreements with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union today, they said in separate statements. Employees are expected to return to work tomorrow, they said in a joint statement. The agreement applies until June 30, 2016.