MAC: Mines and Communities

South African labour strife: no resolution in sight

Published by MAC on 2013-05-21
Source: Statement, Reuters, Mining.com (2013-05-16)

Previous article on MAC:  South Africa: The Runaway Union

Statement of the Workers Committee at Angloplats

We shall not accept one more job loss at Angloplats - We shall resist - We shall fight

13 May 2013

We do not accept the decision of Angloplats to fire 6000 workers. We are not relieved that management has reduced the number from 14,000. It may please the government and Minister Shabangu but we are outraged. Once again the workers must pay for the bosses mismanagement of the company.

In January 2013, Amplats claimed that the platinum industry was in an intractable "crisis". They said they had "no choice" but to sack 14 000 workers. Yet it is clear they have many choices as now they announce they will fire 6000 workers.

It is possible to reduce this to zero and that is what we are fighting for.

We do not forget that in 2007, Angloplats employed 88 000 workers. Since then Angloplats has already retrenched 37 000 workers.

Enough is enough!

They were retrenched to boost profits, and not to save the company from going bust. Again, workers and their families are expected to pay. More livelihoods will be destroyed.

*The story of the bosses doesn't hold water. They cannot be trusted.*

In June 2012, the retiring CEO Neville Nicolau said that there will be no more retrenchments: "overheads ... would make us unprofitable if we cut back too much."

The reason for high costs at Khomanani and Khuseleka was "short-term capital projects" he said. More machines were put into place to boost productivity. In June 2012, these two mines were reported the most productive mines of all at Angloplats. They were running at a profit and were not loss making. Their cost would be back to normal this year, said Nicolau. Six months later, the new CEO said that Khomanani and Khuseleka are "unsustainable" and "high cost". This is a clearly brazen lie. Now, suddenly, Khuseleka will not be closed. For sure, there is no reason to close Khomanani either. Management must stop zig-zagging.

Indeed, during the boom years of 2008 and 2009 Amplats paid out R29 billion to shareholders, mainly to its giant owner, the old Anglo American. This was more money than the entire wage bill of all platinum mines in SA during that period.

They did not plan for the future. Today, they want to create a shortage of platinum in order to push-up the platinumprice. They target a "very good performing" mine to do so, as they say in their own annual report.

All top analysts agree that "the long-term profitability of the sector remains intact".

But Mr Griffiths, Mrs Caroll and their friendsare claiming they have no option but to announce more retrenchments. They are trying to impose the costs of their own greed and mismanagement on workers, and to impress shareholders by showing how ruthless they can be.

There must be change. And this change can and should start at Angloplats with mine workers, their families, the dependent mining communities and the whole of South Africa fighting back and saying NO to this plan and the blind race to the bottom. We will have no part of it.

The platinum is not going anywhere. Neither shall the workers at Angloplats.

Cut in the short-term profits, not in the workforce.

For more info:

Evans 084 5683895
Gaddafi 071 204 3492
Makhanya 074 9207700


Lonmin's strike ends but, Amplats now in brace position

Reuters

16 May 2013

JOHANNESBURG - A two-day wildcat strike at Lonmin's South African platinum mines ended on Thursday, but a union official said workers might walk out at larger rival Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) to protest company plans to axe thousands of jobs.

Lonmin shares jumped more than 3 percent after the world's third-largest platinum producer said 86 percent of its workers had reported for duty, easing fears of prolonged unrest at the mine, the epicentre of months of industry turmoil last year that hit growth in Africa's largest economy.

However, Amplats was down 0.8 percent amid reports of a possible strike to try to block the company's plans to shed 6,000 jobs in a restructuring designed to return the firm to profitability.

Jimmy Gama, national treasurer of the Association of Mining and Construction Union (AMCU), said there had been no call for a strike at Amplats.

However, another AMCU official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters a walkout was on the cards if Amplats, a unit of global mining giant Anglo American, stuck to its restructuring plans.

"We have said by tomorrow we can have a strike if they do not want to change," the offical said.

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said the company had received no notification of an intent to strike.

More than 50 people have been killed - including 34 shot dead by police - in more than 12 months of mining unrest stemming from a vicious turf war between AMCU and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

NUM, a close ally of the ruling African National Congress, had enjoyed a near monopoly in the sector but started to bleed members two years ago, as a belief took hold that its leaders had become lazy and too close to management.


Miners union threatens strike at South Africa's Amplats

By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Sherilee Lakmidas

Reuters

16 May 2013

JOHANNESBURG - Miners at South Africa's Anglo American Platinum reported for work late Thursday, and a labor leader said the workers will strike on Friday in an escalation of unrest that sent the company's shares lower and the rand to a four-year low.

The threatened action is to protest Amplats' plans to cut as many as 6,000 jobs in a bid to return to profit, down from the 14,000 it initially proposed, and comes just as a two-day wildcat strike ends at platinum producer Longman.

"Workers are going underground; everything is normal," Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole told Reuters late on Thursday.

A branch leader with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) said earlier that miners would not work the overnight shift on Thursday, but another said later in the day that the action would commence on Friday.

"We decided that it would be tomorrow. It's not AMCU that have called the strike, it's the workers," said Evans Ramokga, an Amplats' labor leader also linked to AMCU.

Months of violent labor unrest in the mining sector last year, including the police killing of 34 strikers at Lonmin's Marikana mine, slowed the growth of South Africa's biggest economy and triggered credit rating downgrades.

On Thursday the prospect of another round of trouble sent the rand to four-year lows. Amplats shares fell more than 4 percent by the close and reached an eight-year low.

AMCU's leadership often distances itself from illegal strike action, but the leadership showed that it was in control this week, when leaders addressed the striking Lonmin miners and told them to return to the shafts, which the miners promptly did.

AMCU has succeeded in poaching tens of thousands of members from the once dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

More than 50 people have been killed in more than 12 months of unrest stemming from a turf war between the two unions. The rivalry was stoked over the weekend when an AMCU organizer was shot dead in a tavern.

The current action comes shortly before a round of wage talks being billed as the toughest since the end of apartheid in 1994, as shrinking company margins and falling commodity prices combine with rising worker militancy.

Sithole said Amplats had received no notification of an intent to strike. The company fell to a loss last year in part because of the strikes, which shut its mines near Rustenburg for months.

DEADLY STRIFE

NUM, an ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), had enjoyed a near monopoly in the mining sector but started to lose members as a belief took hold that its leaders had become too close to management.

NUM says its rival AMCU has risen to prominence through violence and promises of unrealistic wage hikes at a time of razor-thin margins in the platinum sector in South Africa, home to 80 percent of known reserves of the metal.

NUM also points to its own success in wringing above-inflation wage hikes out of mining companies over the past decade.

The unrest is also rooted partly in glaring income disparities within the mining industry and the wider society.

Patience is wearing thin two decades after the end of white rule as much of the black mine labor force, which is semi-literate and drawn from poor rural areas, still makes only a few hundred dollars a month even after years of big wage rises.

And with an election looming in a year, the ANC is worried about the prospect of big job losses and forced Amplats to scale back its initial plan to shed 14,000 positions.

The cabinet is "extremely, extremely concerned" about the latest unrest, Environment Minister Edna Molewa told reporters at a post-cabinet news conference on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas and Olivia Kumwenda in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Jane Baird and Cynthia Osterman)

 


Workers strike at Lonmin's South African mine

Kerry Hall

Mining.com

14 May 2013

Platinum producer Lonmin Plc suspended operations at its Marikana mine in South Africa Tuesday as workers began a wildcat strike.

Mine workers refused to go underground and all 13 shafts are not functioning, the company told Dow Jones Newswires.

Lonmin employs about 37,000 people - 27,000 regular and 10,000 on contract.

A spokesman for the National Mineworkers Union said the strike seemed to be a result of the death of an organizer from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union that happened on the weekend, according to Reuters.

A mob of hundreds marched to a spot near the mine to wait for their leaders to address them.

The Solidarity trade union spokesman told Reuters the AMCU was demanding the NUM close its office at Lonmin.

The company's acting chief executive told Reuters that Lonmin would be telling the unions to not expect much from forthcoming wage talks.

Last year, 34 workers were shot to death by police during a strike at the Marikana mine.


Union organizer killed in South Africa

Anthony Halley

Mining.com

13 May 2013

A 46-year-old unnamed organizer for South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was shot dead on Saturday in Rustenberg.

Labour tensions are peaking in South Africa as wage agreements for gold, coal and a majority of platinum producers are set to expire this June amid "inflation, rising worker militancy, shrinking company margins and falling commodity prices."

The AMCU's national treasurer told Reuters that there was an "obvious" connection between the killing and the victim's union involvement.

The organizer was an activist with the AMCU at platinum producer Lonmin.

Last year more than 50 died during the wildcat platinum and gold strikes.

Sources: Ed Stoddard writing for Reuters; Fox Business

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