South African mineworkers end strike, but bleak outlook remainsPublished by MAC on 2014-06-24
Source: SAPA, Reuters, Mining Weekly, Bloomberg, BBC, M&G (2014-06-24)
A MAC Special Report
South Africa's longest-ever strike ended this week, as platinum and palladium miners belonging to the Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) concluded an agreement with the three main producers, Amplats (a subsidiary of Anglo American plc), Lonmin plc, and South Africa-based Implats.
The industrial action, which started in January 2014, had seen several deaths and mounting impoverishment among workers and their families.
The mining minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, had already washed his hands of the affair - probably under the influence of the ANC government which was re-elected in May.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) - solidly opposed to the rise of the rival AMCU and that union's alleged intimidation of NUM members - had been negotiating its own deals with the industry.
The strike was dubbed "unsustainable" by the platinum-palladium mining companies, a sentiment reflected in a May statement by the NUM which warned of severe cutbacks in future employment and the introduction of legislation to curb future industrial action.
The AMCU has now achieved one of its main objectives - a monthly increase of 1,000 Rand (around US$90) for lowest-paid workers.
But this is not only a derisory amount (Amplats last year handed its owns CEO some 17.6 million Rand), it comes with several of the union's other demands apparently not being met.
Meanwhile, the mining companies, while themselves pleading poverty - they claimed that 45% of their production was already "unprofitable" in 2013 - have not apparently suffered from the strike as might have been expected, fulfilling overseas contracts from their own stockpiles.
The real question is: how far will the state go in support its mine workforces in the face of industry "restructuring", especially increased mechanisation which substitutes for their labour?
Since the Marakana massacre of August 2013, when South African police were complicit in killing workers at a Lonmin platinum mine, the ANC-led government has been at proxy war with its political opponents.
And the country's labour court has just ruled in favour of gold mining companies, making permanenet an interim ruling against AMCU workers striking at their own operations.
There is little or no sign that these conflicts will end soon.
Platinum strike ends
23 June 2014
The historic five month-long strike in the platinum sector has ended, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Monday.
The union accepted a wage settlement that would increase the basic salary of the lowest-paid worker by R1000 over three years, excluding other benefits.
"Amcu makes a difference. You made history with the strike. Your strike is ranked the third-longest strike in the world," union leader Joseph Mathunjwa told about 20,000 members at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Phokeng, near Rustenburg.
"Some of the workers will receive R12 500 before the end of the agreement." Workers would receive back pay within seven days of returning to their jobs on Wednesday.
Mathunjwa said the agreement would be signed on Tuesday.
Amcu members in the platinum sector went on strike on January 23 demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500.
Labour Court rules in favour of gold miners in AMCU strike case
By Leandi Kolver
23 June 2014
JOHANNESBURG - The Labour Court has ruled in favour of gold mining companies AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Sibanye Gold, making permanent an interim order preventing the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) from embarking on strike action at some of the companies' operations.
AMCU had, in January, served strike notices detailing its intent to strike at Sibanye's Driefontein mine, Harmony's Kusaselethu and Masimong mines, and AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations.
The strike was called in respect of the 2013 wage negotiations that were concluded on September 10, when a two-year wage agreement was reached with the National Union of Mineworkers, Uasa and Solidarity, which represented 72% of employees at that time.
Following the issue of the AMCU strike notices, the Chamber of Mines (CoM), acting on behalf of the companies, made an application to the Labour Court to declare any strike action by AMCU on wages and other conditions of service unprotected.
The Labour Court had initially granted the interim order preventing a strike by the union's members on January 30.
The gold producers, represented by the CoM [Chamber pof Mines], on Monday welcomed the ruling by the Labour Court, which made this interdict permanent.
"The decision brings certainty about the binding nature of the 2013 wage agreement, which is in the best interest of employees, the industry and our country. 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," CoM chief negotiator Dr Elize Strydom said speaking on behalf of the affected gold producers.
Solidarity welcomed the Labour Court's ruling and appealed to AMCU to act in the best interests of its members and the mining industry at large, by preventing shafts from being sabotaged, as was the case when a similar provisional injunction was granted by the Labour Court earlier this year.
"The court ruling will prevent the damage to the mining industry from spreading further than the devastating platinum strike. The damage to the mining industry now has to be contained to give this industry time to recover so that, after two years of labour unrest, it can, once again, be put on a sustainable path," Solidarity general-secretary Gideon du Plessis said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Werksmans Attorneys director Anastasia Vatalidis stated that the Labour Court's decision once again highlighted the challenges faced by minority unions seeking organisational rights as a first step toward collective bargaining.
She said that, in a modern business environment, where it might be impractical to conduct recruitment centrally, branches of companies could start to be classified as independent workplaces, thereby, potentially requiring employers to accommodate more than one union.
"While the objective of recognising a union such as AMCU at a particular mine may be genuine, one cannot but wonder at which point multiple union representation in the workplace would justify accommodating further unions, even at the cost of majoritarianism," she said, stating that there was, after all, no correlation between the number of unions granted organisational rights and the quality and effectiveness of the union representation in a particular employer's workplace.
"Bearing in mind that labour relations and, more particularly, the facilitation of trade union representation must be manageable for employers both financially and logistically, perhaps the debate should shift from being one about majoritarianism and increasing the number of unions exercising organisational rights, to one around how one can ensure union representation is more effectively utilised," Vatalidis said.
She added that businesses outside the mining sector might soon find themselves bargaining collectively with different unions representing employees at each independent branch.
However, in the mining sector, given its centralised nature and legislation's support for majoritarianism, the challenges facing minority unions - even those unions representing thousands of employees in the mining industry seeking to secure a seat at the bargaining table - were far from over, she stated, adding that this would mean that the battle for power between opposing unions and between unions and employers would continue to be the order of the day, with the right to strike being the only real tool at the disposal of the employee caught at the centre of the debate.
Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
African firm is selling pepper-spray bullet firing drones
By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor
18 June 2014
The maker of a drone that fires pepper spray bullets says it has received its first order for the machine.
South Africa-based Desert Wolf told the BBC it had secured the sale of 25 units to a mining company after showing off the tech at a trade show.
It is marketing the device as a "riot control copter" that can tackle crowds "without endangering the lives of security staff".
But the International Trade Union Confederation is horrified by the idea.
"This is a deeply disturbing and repugnant development and we are convinced that any reasonable government will move quickly to stop the deployment of advanced battlefield technology on workers or indeed the public involved in legitimate protests and demonstrations," said spokesman Tim Noonan.
He added that the ITUC would now try to identify which company had ordered the drones.
Skunk droneDesert Wolf unveiled the drone in South Africa last month
"We will be taking this up as a matter of urgency with the unions in the mining sector globally," he added.
Desert Wolf's website states that its Skunk octacopter drone is fitted with four high-capacity paintball barrels, each capable of firing up to 20 bullets per second.
In addition to pepper-spray ammunition, the firm says it can also be armed with dye-marker balls and solid plastic balls.
The machine can carry up to 4,000 bullets at a time as well as "blinding lasers" and on-board speakers that can communicate warnings to a crowd.
Although the firm's site only features a graphic showing the machine's design, the Defence Web news site has published a photo of the drone after it was unveiled at a security trade show near Johannesburg in May.
"We received an order for 25 units just after," Desert Wolf's managing director Hennie Kieser told the BBC.
"We cannot disclose the customer, but I am allowed to say it will be used by an international mining house.
"We are also busy with a number of other customers who want to finalise their orders.
"Some [are] mines in South Africa, some security companies in South Africa and outside South Africa, some police units outside South Africa and a number of other industrial customers."
Mr Kieser said that he now planned to invite potential clients to see demonstration flights that would be held in Africa, Europe and the Americas over the coming months.
"We designed and developed the Skunk because of a huge safety risk that had to be addressed," he added.
"We cannot afford another Lonmin Marikana and by removing the police on foot, using non-lethal technology, I believe that everyone will be much safer."
Lonmin Marikana is a reference to a violent strike over pay in 2012 that resulted in 44 deaths at a South African platinum mine. Most of the deceased were workers, but local police were also among the casualties.
Mr Kieser noted that Lonmin was not the customer in question.
Guy Martin, the editor of Defence Web, said he believed the drone was unique.
"The Skunk unmanned aerial vehicle with its four paintball guns, loudhailer and cameras is only a logical next step in the development of UAVs, but nevertheless it is a watershed moment in their evolution and goes to show that UAVs have almost unlimited uses," he said.
"I predict that we will see a whole new wave of UAVs emerging with payloads more unusual than tasers, dart guns and paintball guns."
A Texas-based firm has developed a drone fitted with a stun gun, but it is not for sale
But Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control campaign group, is concerned that the deployment of such drones risks "creeping authoritarianism and the suppression of protest".
"Firing plastic balls or bullets from the air will maim and kill," he said.
"Using pepper spray against a crowd of protesters is a form of torture and should not be allowed.
"We urgently need an investigation by the international community before these drones are used."
Platinum Companies See Talks to End South African Strike
By Paul Burkhardt and Andre Janse van Vuuren
17 June 2014
The world's three largest platinum companies and the biggest union at their mines in South Africa will this week continue talks to end a strike that has crippled production for more than 20 weeks.
Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union late last week accepted a pay proposal "in principle" from Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc. The AMCU has said it has conditions to put to the companies before agreeing to a deal. A Reuters report that stated the parties had reached an agreement was incorrect, Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala, said by phone today.
"Discussions are expected between the union and the companies in the day or two ahead," Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the producers at Johannesburg-based Russell and Associates, said in an e-mailed response to questions. AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa and Treasurer Jimmy Gama didn't answer phone calls seeking comment.
The union's members have been on strike since Jan. 23 in support of their demand to more than double basic pay. The three companies said they have lost 22.9 billion rand ($2.1 billion) in revenue in the longest and costliest mining strike in South Africa, source of about 70 percent of the global mined production of platinum, used to make jewelry and devices that reduce harmful emissions from vehicles.
The union's original demand was for basic monthly salaries for the lowest-paid workers to rise to 12,500 rand immediately. The producers' latest offer includes annual wage increases of as much as 1,000 rand a month. The advance would be on as little as 5,000 rand at Anglo American Platinum.
AMCU members have raised conditions on issues including the length of the agreement, back pay, increases in living-out allowances and the reinstatement of jobs, Mathunjwa said at rallies last week.
Platinum for immediate delivery declined 0.1 percent to $1,433.75 an ounce by 10:16 a.m. in London, paring the increase this year to 4.6 percent. Palladium rose 0.2 percent to $812.16 an ounce. Anglo American Platinum gained 0.2 percent to 473.50 rand, Impala fell 0.8 percent to 113 rand, and Lonmin climbed 1.2 percent to 249.8 pence.
Amcu rejects wage offer
12 June 2014
Mining union Amcu has rejected the latest offer from mining companies Implats, Amplats and Lonmin.
Amcu president Joseph Mthunjwa addressed thousands of members at the Wonderkop stadium near Rustenburg. In spite of general optimism that an "in principle agreement" would be accepted, the miners rejected it, smashing hopes that the 21 week long strike would come to an end.
Mthunjwa said miners demanded an increase of R1 000 per month as well as an above CPI increase in the living out allowance. The agreement would further not be signed unless 225 essential services staff, who have been dismissed, are re-instated. He said the employers have increased their earlier offer of an increase of R800 on the basic salary to R850, but workers insisted on R1 000.
He said if employers accept these demands he would come back to Amcu members for approval. If it is accepted, some of the workers would reach an income of R12 500 per month within 3 years, but "others will still be behind".
Mthunjwa said the strike was necessary. "We don't regret (it). The workers have shown a good force, that they cannot embrace the legacy of apartheid anymore."
Amcu members were clearly upbeat about the concessions the employers have made. They sang and danced and welcomed Mthunjwa, many trying to touch him. One miner who managed that turned around and shouted ecstatically: "I have touched my president!"
Share prices of the three embattled platinum producers Implats, Amplats and Lonmin jumped after an announcement that an end to the 21 week strike may be reached by Friday.
Implats announced at 13:17 on Sens that "in principle undertakings have been reached with the leadership of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) in respect of wages and conditions of employment."
News that the offer had been rejected came after the market had closed for the day.
Implats said the proposals are underpinned by principles of a sustainable future for the three platinum producers and "the best possible increase for employees "under the current financial circumstance"".
Impala said in another statement that the principles underlying the proposal include:
- an annual increase of R1,000 per month in basic pay for A- and B-band employees for two years and R950 thereafter.
- increases of 8% per annum for officials, artisans and miners for two years and 7.5% thereafter.
- living-out allowances remaining constant at 2013 levels.
- pension fund contributions, overtime, holiday leave and shift allowances adjusted by CPI on an annual basis.
Implats further stated that to assist employees, the companies will ensure that the back-pay that is due to them for the period prior to the strike will be paid within seven working days of return to work. The principle of 'no work no pay' applies for those employees that have been on strike.
It is not clear why Mthunjwa said the employers only offered an increase of R850 per month, while the employer have said their offer is R1 000 per month.
Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of union Solidarity said after 14:00 on Thursday that a meeting between Amplats and Amcu was in progress during which it will become clear whether the strike is over or not.
"We are all waiting to hear what Amcu's response is, because we know, if they accept the offer at Amplats, they will accept it at the other two mining companies as well", Du Plessis said.
Solidarity represents 2 700 members at the three companies. These members were not on strike, but were sent home by the employers out of concern for their safety. While they still received their wages, they forfeited other bonuses and allowances that represent between 40% and 60% of their earnings.
Solidarity earlier indicated that it would approach the Constitutional Court on Monday in a effort to bring an end to the strike and limit the damage for its members. Du Plessis said preparations for the application are going full steam ahead, because "this is the fourth time the parties have reached exactly this point in negotiations. At three previous occasions the talks broke down."
According to a website run by the three mining companies, workers have so far lost R9.8 billion in earnings and the employers R22.1 billion in revenue.
South African Platinum Companies, Union Reach Initial Wage Pact
New Offer Could End Country's Crippling 21-Week Strike
By Devon Maylie
Wall Street Journal
12 June 2014
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's platinum producers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union have agreed "in principle" to a wage offer to end a 21-week strike, but some issues remain.
The AMCU held meetings with its members in the platinum belt on Thursday to present for approval the latest offer from the world's three biggest platinum producers- Anglo American Platinum Ltd. AMS.JO +0.46%, Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. IMP.JO +0.84% and Lonmin LMI.LN +0.52% PLC.
'In principle' undertakings have been reached with the leadership of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union," the companies said in a joint statement.
A spokesman for Impala said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa called Impala's chief executive after speaking with members and said that they had an agreement "in principle" but that there were still some points the workers wanted discussed before the union signs.
An AMCU leader at Anglo American Platinum's mines, Evans Ramokga, said that the union and companies are close to a deal if the companies make a few more concessions.
The companies said they expected to hear back from the union by Friday. But Mr. Ramokga said talks could be delayed until the weekend as union representatives plan to travel to one more platinum-producing region on Friday.
Speaking to crowds of mine workers in the platinum belt on Thursday, AMCU told its members to choose wisely, and some cheered when they heard the offer. At Lonmin, workers said they wanted changes to the offer before they agreed, including rehiring around 235 workers the company dismissed in May.
"I am quietly optimistic," said Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala Platinum.
Impala Platinum said it offered to increase workers' monthly salaries by 1,000 rand ($93) for two years and then 950 rand thereafter.
The companies initially wanted the offer to last for a five-year period. The union wants to change the wage agreement to three years so that it can continue to negotiate to reach 12,500 rand ($1,165) a month, Mr. Ramokga said.
The companies also proposed to hold a forum with the union three months after workers return to their jobs to discuss wider structural issues that plague the mine workers, such as poor housing. They also asked for the union to agree to not strike for the next three years.
Some 70,000 miners stopped work on Jan. 23 to demand that the minimum monthly wage be nearly tripled to 12,500 rand a month.
The latest round of talks mediated by South Africa's new minister of mines broke down on Monday without a resolution.
AMCU leaders and the company chief executives have since held private meetings in the last two days to hash out an end to the strike. Mr. Mathunjwa said his union would canvass its members on Thursday to get a mandate on what they wanted to do.
The strike has hobbled South Africa's already languishing economy, inflicting more than $2 billion in lost revenue on mining companies, and increasing poverty and violence in the communities near the platinum mines. A rival union, the National Union of Mineworkers, said some of its members' property was damaged this week, including cars that were set on fire. Over the past month, the NUM said five people who broke the strike and went to work were killed around the mines.
Once the strike ends, analysts estimate it will still take at least three months to get the operations back into full production. In addition, the companies said some restructuring is likely, which could lead to job losses.
When workers return to the mines, Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said there are still a number of issues that companies and the unions will be discussing.
"There are structural issues in the mining sector that still need to be addressed," Ms. Vey said.
-Rory Gallivan contributed to this article
Amcu leadership, mines agree on a wage deal
by Carol Paton and Paul Vecchiatto
12 June 2014
THE five-month platinum strike could end on Friday if workers accept a new offer which would see basic pay increase by R1,000 a month for the lowest paid.
The strongest sign of a deal is that this is the first time in two months that leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have taken an offer to workers for consideration.
A previous offer of an R800 a month increase was rejected by leaders who chose not to take it back to workers.
Lonmin, Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum announced that "in principle" undertakings were reached with the leadership of the Amcu in respect of wages and conditions of employment. Amcu would be discussing these with its members to seek a mandate to accept the offers which, if given, would bring to an end the 21-week long strike.
The potential agreement sought to create "a sustainable future for the three platinum companies for the benefit of all stakeholders and to afford employees the best possible increase under the current financial circumstances".
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa and treasurer Jimmy Gama began reporting back at mass meetings at noon on Thursday. Workers who took to the podium both criticised and supported the offer.
Shop stewards from Amcu urged Mr Mathunjwa to sign a wage deal with the three major platinum firms at a dramatic mass rally crowning nearly five months of industrial action.
Cheers erupted from the crowd of thousands of miners as one senior union official took the microphone to declare: "Sign, Mathunjwa, sign. This union has worked. We want this money. We come from hardships. Amcu has worked. We can't take kids to school."
Amcu has a range of other meetings planned on Thursday with shop stewards and regional leaders.
The union has undertaken to reply to employers on the offer on Friday.
African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday the platinum wage strike must be resolved "now" rather than deal with its consequences such as a rating agency downgrade of the country.
Addressing the media in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Mantashe said the ruling party had real concerns that should the strike, which is now in its fifth month, continue the country would experience a second quarter of negative economic growth.
"The consequence of that (the negative growth rate) is that the ratings agencies will downgrade the country, it will increase our cost of borrowing and possibly impact the infrastructure growth programme," he said.
Mr Mantashe reasserted previous claims made by him that "foreigners" were involved in driving the strike. He said this was part of the politicisation of the strike.
"Those foreigners, whom I will not name, have been there negotiating on behalf of Amcu, when it should have been the shop stewards involved in the wage bargaining negotiations."
He then directed his ire at the involvement of the Economic Freedom Fighters being involved with the Amcu negotiations with the platinum mining houses, saying it was also part of the politicisation of the strike.
Mr Mantashe, who is a former secretary-general of the Cosatu affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers, said in the past an organisation called the Labour Research Service taught union leaders and shop stewards how to read company reports, how to calculate wage increases and what companies could afford, and how to negotiate with company executives.
"However, the Labour Research Service never came into negotiations with us...," Mr Mantashe said.
His comment appeared to be taking a swipe at the Alternative Information Development Centre that is headed by Canadian citizen Brian Ashley, however, he did not name the organisation or Mr Ashley specifically.
Mr Mantashe said the Amcu strike was being driven by four foreign nationals, but he refused to name them saying that if he did, he would be accused of being xenophobic.
Platinum strike: Ramatlhodi out - no end in sight - what's next?
9 June 2014
Each day this week, a group of community organisations and NGOs will be picketing in support of AMCU's demands outside the Chamber of Mines and Anglo American offices in Johannesburg building up to a larger rally on Friday.
As expected, discussions on the platinum strike facilitated by Mining Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi ended on Monday without result. Another mediation attempt has failed to break the deadlock as Associated
Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) members edge towards fivemonths with no pay. "No agreement was reached today," AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told the media after leaving Monday's discussions, dashing hopes of the last day of government-led talks ending the four and a half month wage dispute.
In a statement Amplats, Implats and Lonmin, who have chosen to negotiate with the union as a bloc even though the platinum industry often negotiates on a company-by-company basis, unlike the gold sector, said the latest round of discussions "have unfortunately been dissolved without an outcome".
The producers continued: "The companies thank the Minister of Mineral Resources, Advocate Ngoako Ramathlodi, and Deputy Minister, Mr Godfrey Oliphant, and members of the inter-governmental technical task team for their initiatives and efforts. During this process the producers have sought to arrive at a fair and sustainable settlement that would preserve the future of the platinum industry and limit job losses in the country. While the producers remain committed to a negotiated settlement, they will now review further options available to them."
When Ramatlhodi was appointed minister he said his first task was to help end the mining strike, which he said needed to be done before he focused on other duties. His team led numerous discussions over the last two weeks but its work seems to have been cut short by the ANC, who this weekend cautioned the minister over getting involved in a labour dispute, one that relates closely to opposition parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) and has seen the ANC's ally the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) claim its members are being intimidated and attacked by AMCU strikers.
Despite the failure to reach Ramatlhodi's goal, the state was trying to put a positive spin on the abrupt end to its intervention. Speaking to Kaya FM on Monday night, Mineral Resources spokesperson Mahlodi Muofhe, said, "The minister informed the parties [...] that he believes since his establishment of the task team a fortnight ago a lot of ground has been covered in trying to narrow the gaps." The companies and the union are all feeling the heat and don't want the strike to continue in the coming months, added Muofhe.
According to Reuters, Mathunjwa said AMCU moved its position twice during the talks to accommodate the platinum producers, while also sticking to its demand that in the coming years the companies pay entry-level underground workers a basic salary of R12,500 a month. The last reported offer from the producers was an R800 per year increase to the lowest paid workers, significantly lower than what AMCU's asking.
Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for mineral resources James Lorimer on Monday said Ramatlhodi's withdrawal from discussions "displays a distinct lack of leadership in the face of our very serious economic challenges". The DA MP continued, "At the first available opportunity, the DA will submit a motion without notice, urging the house to unanimously encourage the minister to honour his commitment and help find a resolution to the strike, through providing additional development funds to mining communities. The Minister's decision to abandon these negotiations will undoubtedly compromise them, our economy, as well as the Minister and his department's credibility in future."
Lorimer said government should change its system of mining royalty investments by sending the money through an independent agency that could benefit communities and companies at the same time.
ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe's comments on Sunday that the strike could be political rather than pay-related because of the influence of foreign nationals elicited a response from WASP.
A Swedish national, WASP's Liv Shange has been singled out in the past by Mantashe for organising in mining areas. Last year, Mantashe told an audience Marikana was caused by "anarchy, anarchy - anarchy driven by people who are from far away... Sweden, Irish." Later, it was clear he blamed Shange. (It's interesting to note Mantashe was previously general secretary of NUM, who apparently lost members in the platinum belt to AMCU in 2012 not because of any particular brilliance on AMCU's part, but unhappiness with NUM and its leadership.)
WASP, which has deep ties to mining areas, responded on Monday, "We condemn this attempt by the ANC to again play a racist, xenophobic card to draw attention away from how its government and the capitalist economy it presides over is failing to address the needs of mineworkers and the working class in general." Shange said, "Of course the ongoing platinum strike is political, for both workers and employers, in the sense that it is a contestation for power over the wealth of society, but the mineworkers don't need me or any foreigner to come and tell them that." Instead of looking for a "third force" the ANC should realise that instability will continue until the state can address inequality, WASP added.
Each day this week, a group of community organisations and NGOs will picketing in support of AMCU's demands outside the Chamber of Mines and Anglo American offices in Johannesburg building up to a larger rally on Friday. There's been no word on when the union will next meet the platinum producers. The companies said they would review "further options" going forward. It seems the parties could continue with under mediation by the Labour Court, but unless either the producers or union is set to let go of their firm positions and significantly buckle to the opposition, there's no end in sight to the industrial action.Minister Ramatlhodi, meanwhile, is set to brief media on Tuesday morning.
Ramatlhodi quits deadlocked platinum strike talks
Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
9 June 2014
Wage talks between the Association of Mineworkers' and Construction Union (Amcu) and major platinum producers were deadlocked on Monday, prompting the mining minister to abandon his mediation role and dashing hopes for an end to a strike that is pushing the economy towards recession.
The five-month strike has halted mines that normally account for 40% of global platinum output and has hit wider economic output in Africa's most advanced economy, driving it into contraction in the first quarter of this year.
The meeting on Monday was crucial as the government had said it would pull out of its mediation role if a deal was not struck then and, after the talks ended at an impasse, it duly announced that the mining minister would no longer take part in negotiations.
"No agreement was reached today," Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Amcu, told reporters as he left the talks in Pretoria.
"Amcu made many concessions. We actually moved twice to make employers move closer to us," he said, but added that the union did not compromise its demand for a R12 500 a month basic wage, which excludes allowances.
About 70 000 Amcu members downed tools in January at mines run by the world's top three platinum producers -- Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin -- to demand that their basic wages be more than doubled to R12 500 a month.
Several rounds of talks
Amcu and the producers have previously held several rounds of talks, with the companies offering pay increases of up to 10%, which would raise the overall minimum pay package to R12 500 by July 2017, although this includes cash allowances for necessities such as housing.
The union has so far rejected the offers from the companies and those proposed by a government mediating team.
Mining Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said at the weekend that the government would pull out of its mediating role if the two sides could not reach a deal at the meeting on Monday, saying the government could "take them to the river but not make them drink".
"The minister will no longer be involved," mining ministry spokesperson Mahlodi Muofhe told the SAfm on Monday after the talks ended without resolution.
"The parties committed to continue to talk to each other. We don't think that the parties have the appetite to continue with this impasse for much longer."
The companies said in a joint statement that they would "review further options available to them", but gave no further details. -- Reuters
Platinum, palladium price unmoved by strike talks failure
9 June 2014
The latest round of strike negotiations at South Africa's PGM mines ended in failure on Monday prompting the responsible minister to abandon his mediation role.
More than 70,000 workers at the world's three largest platinum and palladium producers, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinumm and Lonmin, have been on strike since January 23.
Leader of the Amcu union Joseph Mathunjwa said the latest talks broke down after the union refused to compromise on its demand for the immediate implementation of R12,500 ($1,175) a month basic wage.
Newly-installed Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi subsequently made good on a vow to withdraw from the process if no resolution were found by the end of last week.
The nearly five-month long strike has seen mining output in the African nation plummet leading to a contraction in the overall economy during the first quarter.
The companies' which together contribute 40% of global supply have lost combined revenue of some R21 billion ($1.9 billion) while striking workers have forfeited roughly $900 million in wages.
July platinum was little changed on Monday to trade at $1,452 an ounce and is worth less today than when the strike was announced. Year to date platinum is up more than 4%.
June palladium gave up a couple of dollars on the day at $842 an ounce, not far off a three-year high. Palladium hit a record price of $865 in February 2011 and is up 17% this year.
Roughly 10,000 ounces of platinum production and 5,000 ounces of palladium are lost each day the strike drags on. Even when strikers do return to work it would take up to three months to restart production.
South Africa and Russia combined account for close to 80% of global supply of palladium and 70% of platinum output which are mainly used to clean emissions in automobiles.
Anglo American says pay 'fight' at platinum mines inevitable
6 June 2014
Anglo American Plc's four-month battle with a labor union at its South African platinum mines was inevitable because the requests by workers are unsustainable, Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani said.
"It's the fight we had to have," Cutifani said yesterday in a speech in London. "What's being asked, for us is unsustainable. And at the same time, the productivity in the platinum sector is one tenth the productivity in the Australian mining sector and we are paying one fifth of the wages."
Anglo controls the world's largest platinum producer, which has been disrupted by a strike in South Africa since January. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has called more than 70,000 miners out, including employees at Anglo American Platinum Ltd.
Union members are on strike over a demand for basic monthly pay excluding benefits for entry-level underground employees to be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,168) by 2017. The producers have said increases of that order would cost too much.
Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi is coordinating talks between the union and Anglo American Platinum, Lonmin Plc and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., which continue in the South African capital, Pretoria, for a third day today.
"This is one of those challenges we have to take on as an industry, as a company and as a country," Cutifani said at an event organized by the Melbourne Mining Club. "I'm comfortable we'll get there, but it does need us to stand our ground and be constructive and find a solution to work in the long term."
The AMCU sought changes earlier this week to a government- brokered proposal on wages, two people familiar with the negotiations said yesterday.
"I really hope to get a call from the minister" after Ramatlhodi's meeting with the producers, Mathunjwa said today by phone. The union has made "no concession" on its demands, Mathunjwa told reporters in Johannesburg yesterday.
Cutifani, who started a review of assets a year ago after joining London-based Anglo, has set a goal of increasing the company's return on capital to at least 15 percent by 2016 from about 8 percent in June, 2013. He'll consider disposing of any asset that weighs on the overall performance of the world's fifth-largest mining company, which operates in iron ore, platinum, diamond, copper, nickel and coal.
Before Cutifani joined Anglo, the company had lost its market credibility, missed operating targets and lost shareholders because it couldn't deliver on time and on budget, he said in a May 16 interview. The 56-year-old Australian replaced Cynthia Carroll after she quit amid cost overruns and delays at the Minas-Rio iron ore and Barro Alto nickel projects in Brazil.
With assistance from Thomas Biesheuvel in London and Andre Janse van Vuuren in Johannesburg.
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South Africa's mines minister: from hunter to strike buster
Zandi Shabalala & Ed Stoddard
29 May 2014
JOHANNESBURG - In his spare time, South Africa's tough new mines minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, enjoys stalking game with a rifle in the wild bush of his native Limpopo province.
Hunting season is in full swing but Ramatlhodi has his eye on bigger game: a solution to a crippling platinum strike, the longest in the history of the country's mines, which threatens to tip Africa's most advanced economy into recession.
"I am focused on the strike. It's my breakfast, lunch and supper," Ramatlhodi told Reuters in an interview.
Sworn in on Monday, he has waded straight into the fray, dragging the mining union and platinum firms back to the negotiating table after the latest round of talks collapsed.
Ramatlhodi looks determined to bring an end to the 18-week strike which has hit 40 percent of global production of the precious metal used to make catalytic converters that reduce pollution from automobiles.
"He summoned the parties back and said we are going to talk," a union source familiar with the matter told Reuters after talks again stalled on Wednesday.
Ramatlhodi has already set-up a government mediation team which includes officials from the treasury.
The committee is to meet on Thursday with the striking Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and the world's three top platinum producers, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
Miners risk their lives for less than $150 a week when they start work. The AMCU wants to more than double the entry-level wage to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month within three to four years. With eight dependents each on average, pitmen have received above inflation pay rises for a decade starting from a low base.
Ramatlhodi, a 58-year-old lawyer known for a no-nonsense, sometimes gruff manner, has a reputation for getting his own way. A keen jogger with a shaven head and stocky physique, he likes to project a rough and ready image.
But he said he would rely on diplomacy rather than strong-arm tactics to resolve the impasse in the platinum belt.
"I would rather solve it without bashing together heads," he said in the telephone interview.
A former premier of the rural northeastern province of Limpopo, he is a seasoned African National Congress political operator and former speech writer for Oliver Tambo, the party's leader in exile when it was banned during the apartheid period of white minority rule before the 1990s.
Ramatlhodi said he would draw on his experience in Limpopo, where he engaged conservative whites to win their acceptance of his drive to rename towns with African names.
"I do have the ability to persuade people. We changed the names of all the towns in Limpopo, without exception," he said.
The mining strike may prove harder to crack as the sides are deeply divided over wages with few signs of compromise, although Ramatlhodi said there had been movement this week.
The minister is seen by analysts as part of the "Africanist" wing of the ANC, which believes that more of the economy should be transferred from white to black hands.
This could create tensions with the mostly white executives in the mining industry, which for decades was based on the exploitation of cheap black labour.
"He is a nationalist, he believes strongly in transformation from a racial transfer of power and resources perspective," said local political commentator and author Richard Calland.
Ramatlhodi told Reuters a mining charter adopted a decade ago which holds the industry to targets, including 26 percent black ownership by 2014, might need to be revised.
He said he prefer a "better" target for black business stakes but gave no figure. Industry has been scrambling to meet the current target, set in 2004, while the government is conducting audits. The result will be known later this year.
His agenda bears the hallmarks of Tambo, whose politics were forged in the long struggle against white rule.
Ramatlhodi said the late leader wanted to see a total transformation of society, including a redistribution of resources to the poor black majority.
"Tambo was a democrat, he understood and stood for the need for democracy. Democratising the whole of society ... You can't limit it to one sphere, the political sphere," he said.
When the strike is over, issues such as the living and health conditions of miners would be high on his list of priorities, Ramatlhodi said.
"We are going to begin to tackle the big issues in the mining industry, such as accommodation for the miners, and their health," he said.
Although a novice to the industry, he said he had been down mine shafts when he was premier of Limpopo, home to some of the platinum operations, and he sympathised with workers after seeing the tough and hot conditions they toiled in.
"With the mining industry, it is very important that they begin to validate the human dignity of those who are going down there to the belly of the earth to bring out these minerals." ($1 = 10.4987 South African Rand)
(Editing by Joe Brock and Paul Taylor)
'Mines undermine workers'
27 May 2014
Rustenburg - Mineworkers have long been undermined and belittled by mining companies, a social rights movement said on Tuesday.
"The slave living and working conditions under which mineworkers are exposed cannot be condoned in the current South African constitutional democracy," said Bua Mining Communities co-ordinator Thusi Rapoo.
Bua Mining Communities (BuaMC) is a social movement representing more than 10 mine-hosting communities in and around the Bojanala platinum district municipality in the North West province.
It aims to safeguard and monitor human rights violations, and to enhance fairness and justice in all mine-hosting communities within the area.
"Long after the adoption of the mining charter the conditions of miners still have not improved," Rapoo said.
"The evident persistent squalor (in) mining and living conditions for workers illustrates the resistance of mining companies to the transformation agenda."
The organisation called on mining companies to restore the dignity of mineworkers and pay a living wage.
"The R12,500 is a legitimate call by the miners which requires serious consideration. BuaMC supports a call for a living wage and believes a R12,500 call by mineworkers is reasonable and achievable."
Rapoo said mineworkers had embarked on the strike not because it was fashionable or entertaining.
"Our understanding of the living wage includes, among others, a healthy environment, and access to better housing, easy access to transport, access to medical facilities, quality education, and generally an improved quality of life."
Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) at Impala Platinum, Lonmin, and Anglo American Platinum downed tools on January 23 demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500.
They have rejected the companies' offer that would bring their cash remuneration to R12,500 by July 2017.
Talks to end the strike facilitated by the labour court were expected to continue at an undisclosed location in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Rapoo said they had observed the intolerable and worsening conditions in the mine-hosting communities during the mine labour dispute in Rustenburg.
"The impasse in the mine labour dispute, which seems to be the weapon of the rich to get the worker to the position of desperation, does not serve communities and the workers any better.
"This strategic weapon in the hands of the mining industries has yielded nothing but a dire humanitarian crisis," he said.
"It has displaced and plunged our communities into conflicts and fear. Crime has escalated, death and intimidation reigns in the communities. Our communities find themselves helpless and insecure under these intimidating conditions," said Rapoo.
The situation seemed to be irreversible, with an increasing deterioration in the socio-economic conditions in the area.
"Given the historical background of the mining industry, we believe both the government and the mining industry must take full responsibility for the deteriorating conditions in the area." - Sapa
New South African mines minister pledges strike mediation
27 May 2014
JOHANNESBURG - New South African mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has pledged to mediate in a crippling platinum strike now in its fifth month and said the government needed to start treating the striking AMCU union with respect, local radio said on Tuesday.
Ramatlhodi, who was sworn in on Monday evening, also told Power FM that mining companies had not done enough "to address the well-being of workers", particularly in relation to the squalid living conditions seen around many mines.
The three main platinum firms - Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin - have been through several rounds of talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) but have made little headway in narrowing the gap in their wage demands.
The strike is now the longest in the history of South Africa's mines. Another round of talks, mediated by a labour court judge, kicked off last week and is still going.
Ramatlhodi, an advocate who served as deputy prisons minister in President Jacob Zuma's previous administration, has a reputation as a gruff African nationalist who believes whites retain too much control of Africa's most advanced economy.
He would start strike mediation as soon as he had been briefed on his new portfolio by department officials, he told Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702.
(Reporting by Xola Potelwa; Editing by Ed Cropley)
South Africa reshuffles cabinet, names new mineral resources minister
26 May 2014
South African President Jacob Zuma appointed Sunday Ngoako Ramatlhodi, a former Deputy Minister in the prison service, as the new mineral resources minister, as he unveiled his new cabinet a day after beginning his second five-year term in office.
Ramatlhodi is replacing Susan Shabangu, who has been criticised for her handling of a strike in the platinum mines now in its fifth month. Police minister Nathi Mthethwa, who was in office during the killing of 34 striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine in 2012, was also booted out.
The ongoing industrial action is South Africa's platinum belt is the longest and costliest in the industry's history, and has caused global production to decline by about 40% so far.
While there have been a few attempts to solve the dispute, workers insist on seeing their pay doubled, and mining companies refuse to do so as they claim not to be able to afford the miners' demands.
The most commented cabinet nominations, however, were those in the Finance and Public Enterprises ministries. Junior minister Nhlanhla Nene became the country's first black finance officer, in what is considered a statement of intent from Zuma, who has vowed to bring radical social and economic transformation in this second term at the country's helm.
Zuma also appointed the country's first openly gay cabinet minister, Lynne Brown, as the public enterprises minister. According to The Guardian, the move is thought to be a first in Africa, as well as a symbolic step on a continent enduring a homophobic backlash.
NUM says rival's platinum strike hurting labour
22 May 2014
JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said South Africa's labour movement will be the ultimate loser from a rival union's 17-week platinum strike, which could lead to layoffs and new restrictive government rules.
The wage strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) against three major platinum producers is already the longest in South Africa's mining history. It has so far cost the industry over 19 billion rand ($1.8 billion) in lost revenue and workers almost 8.5 billion rand in lost wages.
"It's going to weaken the unions because we are likely to see the numbers of workers reduced," NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni told Reuters in an interview.
"For example, companies are going to accelerate the move to mechanisation," he said.
When the strike finally ends and the dust has cleared, a painful restructuring including job cuts is widely expected. Amplats, a unit of global mining house Anglo American, has strongly signalled its intention to reduce its South African platinum operations, and the focus is on its Rustenburg mines.
NUM has lost tens of thousands of members to AMCU in a brutal turf war that erupted in 2012. Baleni clearly has an axe to grind with his rival, and so his comments need to be read in this context.
But he did point to wider consequences of the current stoppage, saying they would hurt all unions.
"The Department of Labour has started investigations about what is to be done in the future because of this strike," Baleni said, adding that this could include unspecified policy measures aimed at curbing the length of strikes.
Officials from the department could not immediately be reached for comment.
NUM is a major political ally of the ruling African National Congress, and the government has tended to pursue labour-friendly policies, such as making it difficult for companies to fire workers and requiring them to consult with unions for extended periods before laying off staff.
The ANC won a thumping 62 percent majority in elections earlier this month without the support of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), another union ally in the past. The new administration may not feel so beholden to labour as it seeks ways to kick-start sluggish growth in Africa's most advanced economy.
Baleni also reiterated his concerns about new tactics that have been developed by mining firms to fight the AMCU platinum strike, such as taking their wage offer directly to employees via mobile phone text messages.
"The way the companies are dealing with it, such as communicating directly with workers, this could be used against any union including NUM," he said.
In a sign the tide may be turning in the battle for members, Baleni said NUM had regained 670 members from AMCU this year through April, citing documentation he has seen that has been verified.
NUM is still South Africa's biggest mining union with close to 300,000 members, but AMCU is the biggest for the platinum sector.
The strike has growing increasingly violent, with NUM members who are still on the job seeking refuge in safe houses.
One of its members was stabbed to death on his way to work at an Amplats mine on Thursday, the fifth such killing in the past two weeks. ($1 = 10.4174 South African Rand) (Editing by Jane Baird)
Amplats CEO apologises for comments on fair pay
19 May 2014
JOHANNESBURG - The chief executive of strike-hit Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) apologised for saying this week his seven figure salary was justified because he was skilled whereas miners were not.
His comments cause an uproar in the midst of a violent 16-week strike in the platinum companies Amplats, Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
"My choice of words was inappropriate and a poor way to describe the extremely challenging situation we find ourselves in," Chris Griffiths, Amplats chief executive said in a statement on Friday.
He had told the Business Day that the focus should be on affordable wages that would dent the country's high unemployment rate, "rather than comparing salaries of educated, skilled executives with workers with few or no skills and limited education."
Griffiths earned 17.6 million rand ($1.7 million) in 2013 according to the company's latest annual report.
The companies have said they cannot afford AMCU's demand for a "living wage" of 12,500 rand while the union's president have questioned salaries of company executives.
Implats said on Friday its chief executive, who earns about 7.5 million would not be taking a pay hike in light of the strike which would cripple the company's production for the rest of its financial year.
($1 = 10.3510 South African Rand)
(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala, editing by William Hardy)
Lonmin considers court action to end platinum strike
16 May 2014
MARIKANA, South Africa - South African platinum producer Lonmin said on Thursday it might go to court in a bid to stop a 16-week strike because of the levels of violence faced by workers who want to return to work.
The company also said some miners had turned up for work at its operations, but provided no numbers as efforts continued to end the longest and costliest stoppage in the sector's history.
Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum have also been hit by the wage strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has turned violent in recent days as miners tried to go back to work.
"The levels of violence are worrying, those will lead us to find all options including going to court to stop the strike," Lonmin spokeswoman Lerato Molebatsi told journalists near Lonmin's Marikana mine.
Four miners were killed at the weekend as some employees prepared to go back to work at Amplats and Lonmin. Implats' main operations around the platinum belt town of Rustenburg remain completely shut.
AMCU's arch rival on the platinum belt, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), said it had told its members to stay clear of strike-hit platinum mines because of intimidation.
On Wednesday, stick-wielding strikers from AMCU prevented others from returning to Lonmin's shafts.
The producers have said many of the strikers had indicated a willingness to accept the latest pay offer through SMS polls. They took their latest wage offer directly to employees through mass mobile phone messages - asking for a 'yes' or 'no' reply - after wage talks with AMCU collapsed three weeks ago.
Molebatsi said the SMS campaign had created a "security risk" for those receiving them, so the company had brought the practice to a temporary halt.
South Africa's police minister vowed on Wednesday to crack down on violence against those who wanted to return to work and arrest strikers he said were behind a campaign of intimidation.
Regional police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said on Thursday no arrests had been made yet. "The perpetrators are known and it is only a matter of time," he said.
AMCU has always denied allegations that it uses violence and intimidation to keep its rank and file in line and has accused the state of colluding with companies to target it.
But it has a violent history, emerging as the top union in the platinum shafts in 2012 when it poached tens of thousands of NUM members in a brutal turf war that killed dozens of people and triggered a wave of illegal strikes that year.
The current stoppage has hit about 40 percent of global production of the precious metal used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles, with about 880,000 ounces lost to date, according to Reuters' calculations.
Even in the unlikely event of the strike ending soon, it will almost certainly take out over a million ounces or close to a quarter of South African supply as any ramp up will take weeks.
Despite its scale, the strike has had little impact on spot prices as traders have bet there are adequate above-ground stocks, but the latest developments pushed it to two-month highs on Wednesday over $1,470 an ounce and it is within striking distance of eight-month peaks.
The companies are offering increases of up to 10 percent that they say would raise the overall minimum pay package to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month by July 2017, including cash allowances such as for housing.
They say they can go no higher given rising costs and depressed prices and Lonmin's chief executive Ben Magara said on Monday restructuring and job cuts were inevitable as it posted a steep fall in six-month earnings.
AMCU had initially demanded an immediate increase to 12,500 rand in the basic wage, excluding allowances, but softened that in March to staggered increases that would amount to 12,500 rand within three or four years - still a third more than what the companies are offering in basic salaries. (Additional reporting and writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley and Susan Thomas)
AMCU strikers block South African platinum mine
14 May 2014
MARIKANA, South Africa - About 1,000 stick-wielding strikers gathered outside Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in South Africa on Wednesday, preventing workers from breaking the longest and costliest bout of industrial action in the sector's history.
Some of the strikers, clad in the green shirts of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), told Reuters they planned to block anyone from reaching the shafts in a dramatic show of force.
London-listed Lonmin had been aiming for a "mass return" of workers, many of whom have signalled a willingness to end a crippling 16-week strike over pay that has also hit rivals Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum.
The strike has halted 40 percent of normal global output and dented already sluggish growth in Africa's most advanced economy.
AMCU's charismatic president Joseph Mathunjwa was to address the Lonmin strikers at around 0800 GMT at a rally, with mass meetings also scheduled later in the day at Implats' and Amplats' operations.
Buses were bringing AMCU members to a stadium in Marikana near the site where police shot dead 34 striking Lonmin miners in August 2012 during a violent, wildcat strike.
The current AMCU strike is legal but has become increasingly violent as an end game looms.
The rival National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said its members were unable to return to work because of AMCU intimidation. Four people have been murdered around the platinum mines in the last four days, with no arrests.
"The miners cannot get to work because the intimidation is very high," Sydwell Dokolwana, NUM's regional secretary on the platinum belt, told Reuters.
A police spokesman told the eNCA television channel that officers were out in force and were on hand to escort those who wished to return to the mine gates.
"Buses and vehicles taking them to work will receive a police escort to make sure they are protected," police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said.
The companies have been taking their latest wage offer directly to AMCU's members after wage talks with the union collapsed three weeks ago.
Platinum's spot price, which has been largely unmoved by the strike, was up 1.2 percent to $1,465 an ounce, its highest level in four weeks, according to Reuters' data.
(Additional reporting and writing and Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley and Mark Potter)
Striking platinum miners reject latest wage offer
29 April 2014
MARIKANA, South Africa - Members of South Africa's striking mining union AMCU have rejected the latest wage offer from the world's top three platinum producers, its president said on Tuesday, extending a crippling 14-week stoppage.
"The members have rejected the offer from the employer," Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters after addressing a rally of workers near Lonmin's Marikana mine.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) held similar rallies in recent days at Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum.
It now plans to meet this week with the companies to inform them in person of the rejection, Mathunjwa said.
Marathon wage talks collapsed last week, dashing hopes for an imminent end to South Africa's longest and most costly mining strike, which has hit 40 percent of global platinum production and threatens growth in Africa's most advanced economy.
The companies say they are taking their offer directly to the workers via cellphone text messages and radio and newspaper spots in a bid to circumvent AMCU's leadership, setting the stage for a grinding showdown between capital and labour.
Their bet is that after three straight months with no pay, the rank and file will to stay off the job has been sapped.
Initially AMCU demanded an immediate doubling of the basic wage - net salary before allowances such as housing - for entry-level workers to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month.
The union has since said it would accept annual increases that would reach this goal in three or four years' time.
The producers' latest offer, made last Thursday, was for wage rises of up to 10 percent and other increases that would take the minimum pay package - the basic wage including the allowances - to 12,500 rand a month by July 2017.
Companies say they cannot afford any more given rising costs and depressed prices for the precious metal used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles.
Underlining this point is the muted price reaction to the stoppage despite the over 700,000 ounces of production lost to it so far - around 12 percent of global annual output.
Spot platinum is fetching around $1,412 an ounce, around 2.5 percent lower than it was on the eve of the strike.
Industry sources maintain AMCU's militant core is using intimidation to keep members in line and say most of its workers have returned to their home villages far from the shafts, so its mass rallies are not a real indication of its support.
Mathunjwa dismissed this, telling reporters on Tuesday that "as you can see, all our members are here in full force."
Tuesday's rally was attended by around 5,000 AMCU activists but it was not possible to say if they all belonged to Lonmin. The union has around 70,000 members on the platinum belt.
Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for Lonmin, said "a lot" of its workers had indicated by text message they wanted to take the offer and return to work but exact numbers would not be compiled before the end of the week or early next week.
She said workers could sign an "intention form" at company premises or the offices of TEBA, a mine recruitment agency with offices in regions from where much of the mine labour force hails, such as rural parts of the Eastern Cape province.
This could undermine AMCU as it is not clear how far its reach and influence extends beyond the platinum belt.
A painful restructuring is considered likely after the dust clears from the strike, with job losses expected, especially around Amplats' struggling Rustenburg operations, which it has signaled it could sell or mothball.
This makes the strike a headache for President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) with a general election looming on May 7.
AMCU's dominance in the platinum belt has a political dimension anyway, as it emerged as the top labour group in the sector in 2012 after poaching tens of thousands of members from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a key ANC ally, in a vicious turf war that killed dozens of people.
Tensions remain high, underscored by an outbreak of violence in the area on Sunday when the sports minister and NUM officials were campaigning for the ANC.
($1 = 10.6193 South African Rand)
(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Joe Brock and Mark Potter)
Platinum producers to take wage offer direct to miners
25 April 2014
JOHANNESBURG - Major platinum producers in South Africa said on Thursday they would take their latest wage offer directly to employees, after they failed to reach a deal to end a 13-week strike with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
The move marks a dramatic escalation in the longest and most damaging strike in South Africa's mines in living memory, setting the next stage in a grinding war of attrition between capital and labour on the platinum belt.
"(We) advise that, unfortunately, no resolution has yet been achieved in resolving the three-month strike relating to wages and benefit," Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin said in a joint statement.
"The producers have a duty to provide the details of the settlement offer to our employees and will do so forthwith."
AMCU said it in a statement it planned to address its members about the unfolding situation in mass meetings, saying it had been "arrogantly rebuffed by the platinum cartel".
"We were extremely livid at these underhanded methods. It is difficult to predict how our members will react and what mandate they will give us faced with this situation," it said.
The producers are forcing the hand of AMCU and its president Joseph Mathunjwa by betting that most of the strikers have lost their resolve to strike as they face the third consecutive month without pay.
The companies can go directly to the workers through a number of avenues including by mobile phone text messages, a method they have been using to communicate with them throughout the strike.
"They will get the offer detail from us. They will be able to consider the offer and indicate to their union whether they are happy to return or not," Implats spokesman Johan Theron told Reuters.
"Failing the above, they will be able to tell us whether they are ready to accept or not. On this basis we could then take a decision to re-open the mine and allow workers to return on the basis that they enter into an individual agreement with the employer," he said.
AMCU for its part will try and rally its rank and file through its trade-mark mass meetings.
There is potential for violence given AMCU's recent history. It emerged as the top union in the platinum shafts in 2012 after poaching tens of thousands of members from the once-unrivalled National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in a turf war that killed dozens of people.
The union and producers had spent the past three days haggling over an offer tabled last week by the companies.
Underscoring the widening impact of the stoppage, Amplats said it now expected full-year output to be 2.1 million ounces, down from its previous estimate of 2.3 million to 2.4 million.
There is "potential for further downside revisions from the ongoing industrial action", the unit of global mining house Anglo American said in a trading update.
A painful restructuring is considered likely after the dust clears from the strike, with job losses expected, especially around Amplats' struggling Rustenburg operations, which it has signalled it could sell or mothball.
The strike, which started exactly 13 weeks ago, has hit about 40 percent of global production with more than 700,000 ounces lost so far.
Even if the strike were to end next week, production losses will still mount as the mines slowly reboot.
"Based on the extent of direct losses from strike action to-date, and adding in an allowance for lower production as a result of safe-start procedures, re-hiring, re-training and ramp-ups, I expect losses to platinum production this year to be in the order of 900,000 to 1 million ounces," said William Tankard, metals analyst at Thomson Reuters GFMS.
Exacerbating the industry's woes is the muted price reaction to the stoppage despite its scale. Traders have bet there are adequate above-ground stocks and demand remains far from robust in major markets such as Europe.
Spot platinum prices are near $1,400 an ounce, around 3.5 percent lower than just before the walkout began on Jan. 23.
The sector's viability is also being shaken. Producers have lost 14.5 billion rand ($1.4 billion) to the strike so far, according to an industry website that gives a running tally (here).
These factors plus rising costs explain why the producers have been trying to draw a line in the sand, setting the stage for a protracted showdown.
Mathunjwa has cast the strike in class-war terms and says his union aims to rectify decades of exploitation of black labour by white capital.
Initially demanding an immediate doubling of the basic wage - net salary before allowances such as housing - for entry-level workers to 12,500 rand a month, AMCU has since said it would accept annual increases that would reach this goal in three or even four years' time.
The producers' latest offer, made last Thursday, was for wage rises of up to 10 percent and other increases that would take the minimum pay package - the basic wage including the allowances - to 12,500 rand a month by July 2017.
(Editing by David Evans and Keiron Henderson)
Amplats, Implats raise platinum mine wage offer
18 April 2014
JOHANNESBURG - South African platinum producers made a new wage offer on Thursday in a bid to end a three-month strike at their mines that has hit 40% of global output of the industrial metal.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's top producer, and Impala Platinum (Implats), the second-biggest, said in separate statements they had offered annual increases of 7.5 to 10%, compared with an earlier offer of as much as 9% per year.
The companies' new wage increase offer would push the overall salary package of all their underground workers to R12,500 a month by 2017. On its side, the union has softened its original wage demand from R12,500 to be achieved immediately to the same amount over three to four years.
"This settlement offer has been made in the interests of bringing an end to the debilitating 12-week strike that has crippled the platinum sector and has brought untold hardship to employees, their families, communities and the companies," Amplats said.
It was unclear whether Lonmin , the third-largest producer, has offered a similar deal.
Talks between the companies and leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) are scheduled to continue on Tuesday, following a four-day Easter holiday weekend.
Amplats, Implats and Lonmin plc have so far lost R13.5 billion ($1.3 billion) in revenue to the longest and most damaging South African mining strike in living memory.
The producers have consistently said they cannot afford the AMCU wage demands due to rising operating costs and depressed prices for the precious metal, which is used in catalytic converters in automobiles.
Thursday's meeting took place between officials on both sides at the highest levels since the early days of the strike, including the chief executives of the three companies, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa and South African Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.
The strike has also been a headache for President Jacob Zuma and the African National Congress as a national election is just three weeks away.
AMCU on Tuesday asked the government and the public for funds to help sustain 70,000 striking members who have gone nearly three months without pay.
Amplats still has half its platinum stockpiles in strike's 10th week
31 March 2014
Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world's biggest platinum producer, has plenty of stockpiles to supply customers even as a strike in South Africa enters its tenth week, Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith said.
The company is operating at 60 percent of normal capacity and still has about 215,000 ounces of platinum stockpiles, half the amount it had when the strike started Jan. 23, Griffith told reporters today in Johannesburg. He declined to say when the stockpiles would run out.
"We certainly have the ability to continue for a while longer and a good while longer," Griffith said. "Even if we could not continue to supply our customers from production, we would do it through other methods, and if that means buying in volume we would do so."
About 70,000 employees who are members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union across the world's three biggest platinum companies, which also include Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc, are striking over pay. They're asking that basic monthly wages be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,180) within three years, a that Griffith said would make half the industry unprofitable.
Amplats, Impala and Lonmin will meet the state-backed mediator, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration on March 31. While all parties are "entering settlement territory," job losses will be "inevitable" to make shafts profitable again, Griffith said.Wage Proposals
The companies have offered increases of as much as 9 percent, compared with South Africa's inflation rate of 5.9 percent as of February. They may be able to reach a settlement of 12,500 rand a month over three years as long as that figure was "total cost to company" and includes housing and benefits, Griffith said. The AMCU wants 12,500 rand a month as a basic wage.
That "is a way for AMCU to go back with some face saving around those scenarios," Griffith said.
The AMCU's wage demands would add about 9 billion rand to Amplats's annual costs and make its Rustenburg and Union operations unsustainable, he said.
"As we stand now Rustenburg cannot make a profit this year," Griffith said. "At some point in time we've got to say to ourselves, 'Well, at what point in time do we have to shut down Rustenburg?' That is a conversation we're having internally. The same goes for Union mine."Job Losses
About 7,500 jobs have been eliminated from Amplats' Rustenburg operations in the past year and more will probably be lost in the longer term as the industry becomes more mechanized, Griffith said. The strike will "accelerate" that process, he said.
South Africa produces about 70 percent of the world's mined platinum. Amplats was little changed at 470 rand by the close in Johannesburg, keeping the gain since the strike started to 8.8 percent.
The companies have lost 10.5 billion rand of revenue because of the stoppage, while workers have forfeited 4.7 billion rand in wages, the three producers said on a joint website.
Amplats has an agreement with Impala to refine some of the latter's mined platinum in an example of how to the companies are working together to fulfill customer orders, Griffith said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin Crowley in Johannesburg at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Platinum strikes: Two months into starving negotiations
G. Nicolson and T. Lekgowa
25 March 2014
After two months of "unprecedented" strikes in the platinum industry, there is currently no discussion between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and three platinum producers -- Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin. By all accounts, workers are suffering. There's hope Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe might help end the deadlock, but no one's holding their breath.
The platinum producers on Tuesday said the "unprecedented" strike would have dire consequences. "The financial cost -- now close to R10 billion in revenue lost, and around R4.4 billion in earnings lost to employees -- does not tell the full story.
Mines and shafts are becoming unviable; people are hungry; children are not going to school; businesses are closing and crime in the platinum belt is increasing.
Overwhelmingly, we are being told by employees that they wish to return to work, and we need to collectively find a way to ensure that they are able to exercise their right to do so," said the three CEOs of Amplats, Implats and Lonmin in a joint statement. "We note a number of AMCU assertions regarding various historical inequities of the mining industry. We believe that many steps have been taken towards remedying them over the years, but we also acknowledge that more needs to be done."
The CEOs warned AMCU that large-scale structural changes would ultimately lead to job losses. "Sadly, as the industry progresses towards greater mechanisation and higher skill levels, which are aligned with higher earnings and greater productivity, so the number of people employed in the industry will decrease."
Spokesperson Charmane Russell elaborated on the CEOs' comments. The Chamber of Mines estimated in 2013 that about 45% of the platinum sector was not profitable and costs continue to rise. "It stands to reason, then, if during a year of relatively good production, 45% of operations were not profitable, then the situation will be worse now. I am afraid we cannot be more specific than this. But there is no doubt that the longer the strike endures, the more fundamental the restructuring will be," said Russell. While the shafts are closed non-striking staff and fixed costs must still be paid. Then it's estimated that 30% of underground work areas will need significant rehabilitation, which can take weeks to get ready for mining. "And, in some cases, this may not make economic sense," says Russell.
Asked about information regarding the impact on families and businesses, Russell says the companies have received calls from struggling employees daily and they will soon provide an update on the comments received. "Information from municipalities is that people are not paying for services; feedback from school principals is that school fees have not being paid," says Russell. "The mines themselves have noted a significant increase in theft and attempted theft from mine properties. We have been told by the SAPS that crime in the region has increased substantially." As the platinum producers have been saying all along, the situation could get worse. "Job losses as a consequence of possible closures is a reality. The industry has already seen significant decreases in employment in the past two years. This is a reality that employees need to be aware of."
Amid the mounting number of demonstrations supporting AMCU's demands, a women's march in Marikana delivered a memorandum to Lonmin on Sunday calling for the R12,500 demand to be met. The women were also concerned about the high level of crime now in the area and the blame put on striking workers, who they said were not responsible for the illegal activities. "We are dying of hunger," read one woman's placard. "Ben Magara [Lonmin CEO] you have the power to change this," read another.
Meanwhile, Cosatu has joined the chorus calling for an end to the strike. North West provincial secretary Solly Phetoe says the federation of trade unions has been inundated with calls from employees who want to work because their families are suffering. "Most of children whose fathers and mothers are on a prolonged strike cannot go to school due to not being able to pay for the transport and meeting the other requirements of their children at school," says Phetoe. Cosatu wants government to convene a meeting between stakeholders to consider the effects of the strike. It's also calling on mining companies to issue a security plan to protect non-striking workers. If no plan is forthcoming within a week, Cosatu will march to the mining houses in North West.
Russell says the companies have tried to provide security where possible, such as at Amplats where areas have been set aside for "safe passage" to and from work. The problem is, security cannot be provided for workers at home. Implats closed all operations to avoid potential violence.
As part of the ongoing discussions between the state, labour and mining companies, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will convene a meeting this Thursday which will include the platinum producers and AMCU. Speaking to Reuters, his spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the meeting was scheduled regardless of the strikes. It's likely, however, the industrial action will be discussed; Motlanthe may be able to help break the deadlock. On the one hand, he can listen to AMCU's concerns about government and sympathise with its grievances over the the mining industry. Speaking at a mining lekgotla last year, the Deputy President slated the industry for failing to improve "archaic practices" and the ongoing system of migrant labour, a "scar on the face of democratic South Africa". On the other hand, he shares an interest with the mining houses in needing to get back to work and keep the economy running.
While negotiations with AMCU have shown no signs of progress, the National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa) provided a glimmer of hope last week by accepting increases between 7.5% and 8.5% at Amplats. CEO Chris Griffith lauded the union, government and the CCMA for working together, "which allows us to build a sustainable future."
Currently, there are no direct discussions between AMCU and the platinum producers. The companies say they want to engage, but only if AMCU moves to a "reasonable settlement range" says Russell. The union's leaders weren't available to comment on Tuesday. Its chief negotiator Jimmy Gama declined to comment, saying we should call AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa, who was unavailable. Early in March, AMCU revised its demand of an immediate R12,500 basic wage, asking for the figure to be reached over three years. CCMA discussions ceased after the revision, with platinum producers still offering between 7.5% and 9% increases. DM
We cannot wish away miners and Marikana
by Palesa Morudu
11 March 2014
LAST Monday, in full Oscar Pistorius frenzy, the media missed an equally charged event on the other side of the country. About 700 people packed into an auditorium at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and many of them wanted to know why Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and national police commissioner Riah Phiyega have not been charged in the murder of 34 miners at Marikana.
The occasion was the first public screening of Miners Shot Down, a documentary directed by Rehad Desai. The event was followed by a panel discussion featuring former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who represents the deceased miners' families at the Farlam commission of inquiry.
I doubt anyone who watches this film will ever again swallow the mendacious claim that Lonmin and the police were defending themselves against a bunch of unreasonable, violent and primitive armed gangs.
Desai uses the police's and Lonmin's own video footage, going back to the beginning of the strike. What emerges is a picture of miners taking control of their fate; the criminalisation of the strike, at the very top level, by the state, in collusion with Lonmin and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) officials; escalating violence; the isolation of the miners; and the final murderous assault by hundreds of police in paramilitary gear.
The film shows miners pleading with the police to stay out of their dispute. Lonmin refuses to speak to them. They then march to the local offices of the NUM, which ostensibly represents them, but whose officials meet them with weapons, resulting in a deadly clash. Mysterious killings continue and tension escalates. Miners soon realise they are on their own, feel betrayed by the NUM, and decide to form worker committees. They decide the safest place is the koppie. They insist that they do not want a clash with the police, just an opportunity to talk to Lonmin.
The role of former Lonmin board member and present African National Congress deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, in branding the strikers criminals and in calling on the government to brand an unprotected strike "illegal", is captured clearly. The police are then deployed as strikebreakers under the pretence of stopping "criminal and dastardly acts", in Ramaphosa's words.
Desai shows how Lonmin and the police planned joint operations to deal with the miners.
The Farlam commission will soon pronounce its findings. But, in this documentary, the video taken by the police is perhaps the most incriminating element. It shows that, despite the miners' efforts to talk to Lonmin, they were prevented from doing so. They were surrounded, corralled and hunted down like animals. The work of acclaimed photojournalist Greg Marinovich underlines the point that many miners appear to have been murdered after having escaped the initial barrage of police bullets.
"This is a powerful film which shows what really happened and the events leading to the event. Desai has exposed the premeditated murder and executions that took place on that day. Marikana was far worse than the Sharpeville massacre because it was premeditated," Kasrils told the gathering.
The visibly angry reaction of the audience was a clear sign that Marikana cannot be wished away as an aberration.
In response to a series of questions about why no one has been criminally charged for the massacre, Ntsebeza told the crowd "to watch this space".
The film vividly captures the conditions the miners face and their determination to secure their wage demands. In song, the miners declare that the death of their leader, "the man in the green blanket", Mgcineni Noki, will be avenged with a salary of R12,500 a month. The police pumped 15 bullets into Noki's body.
The miners have been out on strike for the past six weeks. About 12,000 of them marched to the Union Building last Thursday with R12,500 written on their T-shirts, helmets and on handwritten signs.
Anyone who wants to understand South Africa today would do well to watch this film.
Farlam Commission: More Marikana massacre secrets and lies
13 March 2014
Major General Ganasen Naidoo, a deputy commissioner in the North West Province, was the highest-ranking officer to fire his weapon during the Marikana massacre. His cross-examination at the Farlam Commission is unearthing some disturbing facts and untruths, writes GREG MARINOVICH.
On the afternoon of Monday 13 August 2012, Naidoo was in the backseat of his boss' official car. He and the boss, Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo, were on the way from a meeting at Marikana to their headquarters at Potchefstroom.
Mbombo had tasked her other deputy commissioner, William Mpembe, to disarm miners who had gone to intimidate some of their fellow Lonmin workers who had failed to join the strike. Naidoo remembers that Mbombo was sitting up front alongside her driver, and that she received several calls, some of them in 'vernacular', as he puts it. She was also chatting to her driver.
It would seem that Naidoo was not paying much attention to his superior's conversations, mostly as he could not understand. In fact, he told the Commission that Mbombo would often begin speaking to him in the 'vernacular', and he would have to stop her, reminding her of his linguistic deficiencies.
What Naidoo claims to have missed is a call to Mbombo from General Mpembe, informing her that he was going to deviate from her orders: that instead of disarming the miners, he would escort them to their koppie stronghold at Nkaneng. There is police footage from the scene showing him on the phone.
Oddly, Mbombo herself claimed she never received such a call from Mpembe.
So, the scene is set: the province's highest-ranking cop saying that her deputy was lying in his testimony. Naidoo supported his boss' version -- he was unaware of any such call; but then, perhaps it was in the 'vernacular'. He also says Mbombo did not share that information with him.
The next call from Mpembe -- if there had been a previous one -- elicited a more direct response. The car bearing the generals away from Marikana turned around and sped back. This call from Mpembe was to say that two cops had been killed in a confrontation with the miners.
This is a key part of the Marikana puzzle. There was either an innocent breakdown in communication between the tops cops overseeing Marikana, or their various attempts to spin their way out of trouble were knocking heads.
The death of the policemen on the Monday, as well as of the three miners killed in the same incident (two by police) laid the stage for the massacre that was to happen three days later, on 16 August.
On that day, the fateful Thursday, Naidoo was given two tasks: he had to escort paramedics to any scene where they were needed, should people be injured; and he had to use the reserve forces with him to sweep the veld and koppies as part of the 'tactical' option, should the miners refuse to co-operate.
The account of Naidoo's day has come under intense scrutiny at the Commission. There are major discrepancies between what he is said to have done, and the reasons or rationale for his actions.
The Commission's Advocate Matthew Chaskalson has gone through the various stills and video footage, car tracking devices and testimonies to query Naidoo's behaviour on the day.
Naidoo's main task, by his admission, was to escort medics, if necessary; yet despite hearing about shooting at Scene One at the kraal below the koppie, he and his driver managed to take a long, snaking convoy of police vehicles (with paramedics) away from the wounded.
He then stopped the convoy, took a few vehicles with K9 unit policemen and their dogs, and headed for what was to become Scene Two, the killing koppie where Daily Maverick exposed the murders of 18 more miners.
It is in this part of the lengthy cross-examination that Naidoo seems to keep avoiding a straight answer. If the general's primary task, as he admits, was to take medics to the injured people at Scene One, why did he instead get involved in a tactical offence at Scene Two?
The General -- an intelligent man who has a doctorate, and lots of on-the-ground experience in South Africa's historical conflicts -- tries to confuse the issue of what he did or did not know about there being injured or dead people at Scene One. There is talk of a partial failure of the radios, of poor communication, of not being able to get through to other officers on his cell phone.
Yet Chaskalson has a list of the exact calls and phone texts between all the main players. It seems inconceivable that he did not know of what had happened in the first part of the massacre. Yet of course this is what he needs to stick to, or else how can he justify not taking medics to the scene?
Paramedics only got to Scene One an hour after the shooting. In that time, veteran human rights advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza claims that at least one victim of the police shooting bled to death unnecessarily. There were perhaps more who could have been saved by timeous medical intervention.
Naidoo claims to have been lost -- even though his driver was a colonel from the local Marikana police station -- and that shooting in the vicinity prevented him from escorting the medics.
Logic dictates that he should have called for an armoured vehicle to take the medics in, or called the command centre to ask people at Scene One if it was okay for him to proceed with a soft-skinned vehicle. He could even have called officers at Scene One directly (he says he tried but it failed, a claim disputed by the evidence leaders).
For whatever reason, quite suddenly, it would seem, Naidoo switched from the task of facilitating urgent medical care to that of hunting down fleeing miners in the veld and boulders.
Naidoo claims that it is a policeman's duty to assist other cops in a perilous situation. He took his small team of men and dogs and joined up with a sweep line of National Intervention Unit (NIU) cops making their way towards Scene Two.
It was at this time that Naidoo saw a man fleeing with a long barrelled weapon he took to be, possibly, the R5 assault rifle stolen from police in the deadly clash three days previously. Yet despite the police shooting, arresting or searching every person leaving the koppie, no sign of a rifle was ever found. Even days of searching the crevices and boulders afterwards failed to reveal it.
Naidoo says that while he approached the koppie, he came across two dead miners -- Anele Mdizeni (body A) and Thabiso Thelejane (body B) who were shot down while charging at police, according to what the NIU members told him. The miners had allegedly charged at police with hand weapons.
The trouble here is that the video evidence shows that not a single policeman was closer than 45 metres to the miners when they were killed. It is difficult to argue self-defence in the case of two men with spears and knobkieries posing a threat to trained cops with assault rifles at least two cricket pitch lengths away.
From the base of that large boulder where the two men were killed, Naidoo, his K9 unit and some NIU moved up and were about to crest the boulder, which is about five metres high, when Naidoo claims he saw a miner shooting at him from bushes to his left. He says the bullet hit the rock near his feet. He returned fire, but was unable to discern whether he hit a target.
Here, again, Naidoo's version of events has been picked apart in cross-examination, and by several statements from his own dog handlers and that of other units. The General's version stands in contrast to that of Public Order Policing member Warrant Officer Mamabolo, who says that when he arrived on the scene, his repeated calls for the police on the rocks above them - including Naidoo - to cease shooting were ignored.
The nuance of what happened is critically important, as it points to the state of mind, and the intentions of the highest-ranking officer in the field during the massacre.
Warrant Officer Mamabola testified that "once the shooting of live ammunition stopped, I observed some of the protesters coming out of the bushes behind the boulders/rocks with their raised hands. Suddenly I saw one of the protesters falling to the ground."
This fits in with the Daily Maverick's stories from 2012 (see here for a miner's experience of what happened). Naidoo's statements -- there are various written affidavits to most of the policemen's testimonies -- fail to mention such key moments.
Crucial was one of Naidoo's initial K9 group of cops -- Warrant Officer Hendrick Myburgh -- who says he witnessed another policemen acknowledge murdering a wounded miner. Naidoo says he was unaware of this.
The Commission heard from miners' testimonies how their comrades were shot and killed when they tried to surrender to the police. Naidoo had no knowledge of this, despite having taken command of the policemen at the Scene Two koppie, he said.
Naidoo was also unaware of another of his K9 unit, Warrant Officer Lukas Breedt, planting weapons among the dead for the crime scene picture.
The Commission has also been told how the police gathered for nine days to plan for the Commission - and glaring inconsistencies, not to say outright untruths, have emerged from that version of the events at Marikana.
General Naidoo's time under cross-examination is not yet complete, and the dance around truth and culpability continues. But so far, as a very high-ranking officer entrusted with protecting the lives and rights of South Africa citizens, he has not acquitted himself very well. DM
South Africa's mineral law changes widely opposed
13 March 2014
South Africa's ruling African National Congress used its parliamentary majority to push through changes to laws that companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. say will curb investment and violate international treaties.
The amended 2002 Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act will secure the state a free 20 percent stake in all new energy ventures and enable it to buy an unspecified additional share at an "agreed price." It will also enable the mines minister to declare some minerals strategic and force companies processing them to sell some output to local manufacturers.
With elections scheduled for May 7, the ANC is pushing for the state to play a bigger role in the economy to ensure the nation benefits more from its mineral endowment. South Africa is the continent's largest coal and gold producer and the world's biggest supplier of platinum.
"We are on the path of changing the mining and petroleum industry in South Africa, whether you like it or not," Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu told lawmakers yesterday. "Change is painful, change is bitter, especially when you are stuck in the past. This act is about the people of South Africa."
The National Assembly adopted the amended law, with 226 votes in favor and 66 against. It will now be referred to the National Council of Provinces, Parliament's second chamber, for processing before being signed into law by President Jacob Zuma.
Lawmakers held public hearings on the legislation in September, and BHP Billiton Ltd., Anglo American Plc and a succession of other metals, oil and gas producers complained it was too vague and will have unintended consequences.
The mining companies won some concessions, with the Chamber of Mines saying legislators had "vastly improved" the law. Provisions aimed at encouraging local processing remained problematic.
Rules for energy companies were made more onerous after lawmakers scrapped a 50 percent cap on the size stake the state may demand in new energy projects.
The change would have "a chilling effect on investment," Sean Lunn, chairman of the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa, whose 13 members include Anadarko Petroleum Corp., BHP Billiton, Exxon and Total SA, said in an e-mailed statement on March 10.
Shabangu said the new law would remove ambiguities in the law and align and speed up the process of securing water, environmental and mining licenses, which would help encourage investment.
"South Africa's broader developmental objectives require a paradigm shift to allow development of the country's natural resources," she said. "The needs to balance the interest and benefits of investors and the people of this country can neither be over-emphasized nor treated as mutually exclusive."
The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, accused the ANC of steamrolling the law through Parliament and flouting procedure.
"This bill, even in the most benign interpretation, is going to damage our mining and energy industry," James Lorimer, the DA's shadow minister of mineral resources, told the assembly. "It will cost us investment and will cost us jobs. This bill gives the government the power to nationalize at fire- sale prices any operation that finds oil and gas. Will anyone drill under these conditions? I wouldn't bet on it."
The law could be challenged on procedural or constitutional grounds, said Mike Davies, a Cape Town-based political risk consultant with Kigoda Consulting, which advises mining and energy companies.
"One of the main objectives of the bill is to streamline licensing processes to provide regulatory certainty," Davies said in an e-mailed response to questions. "However, the clauses on beneficiation of minerals and state participation in the petroleum sector, combined with ministerial discretion, will have the opposite effect."
Strikers vow to fight on as platinum price goes soft
22 February 2014
A month-old strike at South Africa's PGM mines shows no signs of being resolved.
More than 70,000 workers at the world's three largest platinum producers, Anglo American Platinum, Imapala Platinum and Lonmin, have been on strike since January.
Platts News reports the militant AMCU labour union has vowed to press on with platinum strike until their demands of a doubling of base pay to $1,170 are met:
"We are prepared to see it through," AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said.
"When asked how long they were prepared to strike, Mathunjwa said: "Until we achieve a settlement.".
Together the South African companies' mines produce 3.5 million ounces in 2012; almost 60% of the world's platinum. South Africa together with Russia control more than three-quarters of world supply.
Estimates point to roughly 10,000 ounces of platinum and 5,000 ounces of palladium production lost each day due to the strikes.
Implats says if and when the strikers do return to work it would take up to three months to restart production with around 10% of its shaft considered unsafe due to cave-ins.
Last week the company, number two producer behind Angloplat, said it can supply customers to end of March, but not beyond.
If strikes continue into May, the mines may need to source metal from the open market, or fail to deliver on contracts according to a research note by Standard Bank.
Huge inventories built up at the largest producers and in Nymex warehouses are being blamed for the muted reaction of platinum and palladium prices to the disruption.
The spot platinum price on Nymex in New York rose on Friday to trade at $1,429.60, that's down over 2% since the strike began.
The price of palladium, last trading at $739.90 has lost $7 an ounce over the last month.
Miner killed at Anglo American Platinum mine
21 February 2014
JOHANNESBURG - A miner was attacked and killed by group of men at a mine belonging to South Africa's Anglo American Platinum, the latest violence in the turbulent, strike-hit sector, police said on Friday.
The miner was on his way to work on Thursday when he was attacked by four armed men who set him on fire, police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said. He died from his injuries on Friday morning.
His identity and union affiliation was not immediately clear.
(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Ed Cropley)
South Africa's Zuma tells mining firms to improve housing
14 February 2014
CAPE TOWN - South African President Jacob Zuma told mining companies on Thursday to improve workers' housing this year to meet a government deadline, saying Africa's largest economy could not afford more social unrest in the sector.
"We need a mining sector that works," Zuma said in his annual state of the nation address to parliament, noting mining's status as South Africa's leading earner of foreign exchange.
"Let me also remind mining companies that 2014 is the deadline for them to improve housing and living conditions of mineworkers and to achieve a number of targets," he added.
As well as provisions for better housing and worker conditions, South Africa's mining charter - Pretoria's blueprint for overhauling the industry - says mining companies have to have 26 percent black ownership by the end of the year.
Despite some reforms in the 20 years since apartheid, many miners remain part of a century-old migrant labour system that sees them living in hostels at the mines far away from their families.
Thousands of others, especially in the platinum sector, live in shanty towns close to the mines with little electricity or sanitation.
The poor living conditions are cited as a key reason for the discontent and violent strikes for higher wages that have plagued the sector for the last two years.
Companies, including the world's top platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, have plans to build 20,000 homes within a decade and have already started converting single-sex hostels into family units.
Zuma, whose popularity has dipped in polls ahead of general elections on May 7, also touched on a recent wave of violent protests by residents of black townships unhappy with their living conditions.
In the last three months, South Africa has seen around 30 "service delivery" protests a day, but Zuma put a positive spin on the unrest, saying it was a sign of government success creating higher expectations among communities.
"When 95 percent of households have access to water, the 5 percent who still need to be provided for feel they cannot wait a moment longer," Zuma said. "Success is also the breeding ground of rising expectations."
Zuma's African National Congress, which came to power in South Africa's first democratic vote in 1994, is expected to extend its electoral dominance in May's ballot despite growing concerns over inefficiency and corruption.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Ed Cropley)
South African mine union steward killed in police clash
10 February 2014
JOHANNESBURG - A union steward was killed in a clash with police at an Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine in South Africa, where workers were holding a strike to press for higher wages, the company said on Saturday.
The world's biggest platinum producer said the worker, a member of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), was killed in a "violent outbreak" when police tried to clear a barricaded road leading to the company's Union mine in the northern Limpopo province.
It did not provide further details and Limpopo police could not be reached for comment.
The death of the AMCU steward is likely to keep tensions high in the platinum mines, many of which have been at a standstill for more than two weeks because of an AMCU-led strike to demand a steep increase in wages.
Amplats said the strike was becoming violent, with more than 14 vehicles damaged by protesters since it started and one worker in a critical condition in hospital after being assaulted at the company's Khuseleka mine this week.
The two other companies affected by the strike are Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
In August 2012, police shot dead 34 striking AMCU miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine, South Africa's bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid nearly two decades ago.
Platinum sector strike in South Africa leads to first death
7 February 2014
A man has been killed outside a South African mine owned by Anglo American Platinum, the world's No. 1 platinum producer, after police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse a crowd of protesters.
A police spokesman told Bloomberg that officers went to the Amplats mine in the northern South Africa province of Limpopo as soon as they saw smoke coming from the area.
Protesters allegedly began throwing rocks at police, who responded shooting rubber bullets and stun grenades at the crowd, reports AFP.
An investigation is already under way to determine whether police officers or the mine's private security firm were responsible for the miner's death.
In the last two weeks, South Africa's platinum sector has been affected by one of the worst strikes since August 2012, forcing miners to halt most operations. Since the 2012 strikes, remembered by the death of 34 miners shot by police at Lonmin's Marikana mine, labour disputes have remained fierce and police have responded aggressively.
South Africa, the world's largest platinum producer, accounts for nearly 70% of global output of the metal.
Amplats to slash 1,400 jobs, warns fresh strike could lead to more
3 February 2014
Anglo American Platinum, the world's largest platinum producer, warned Monday the current strike at its South African operations could force the company to cut 1,200 to 1,400 jobs this year.
The miner said the planned layoffs would follow last year's lost of 7,438 jobs, when merged five mines at its Rustenburg complex into three.
Despite Amplats returned to profitability last year, the company is now facing fresh challenges. Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), which represents about 10% of the company's 4,500 staff at its processing plants, downed tools on Monday.
Reporting a net reported a loss of 568 million rand (US$51.2 million) for 2013, from a loss of 6.4 billion rand in 2012, CEO Chris Griffith warned a protracted strike would impact its recently achieved profitability, forcing Amplats to reconsider some of its more marginal operations.
"We have just gone through this very difficult 2012/2013, returned the company to profitability," he said. "But if this strike continues at Rustenburg and some of those other operations, then clearly we are going to have to relook at what this means for the profitably of those mines."
Mining accounts for 6% of South Africa's gross domestic product and mineral exports make up 60% of export revenue. Companies have already cut several thousand jobs because of costly strikes and a weakening demand environment in the past two years, a blow to the country's high unemployment rate of roughly 24%.
The workers on strike now are demanding that their employers raise entry-level salaries to ZAR12,500 rand ($1,150) a month from around ZAR5,000. Companies have offered an up to 9% increase.
Anglo American Platinum back in profit but outlook bleak
3 February 2014
JOHANNESBURG - Anglo American Platinum, the world's top producer of the precious metal, said on Monday it swung back to full-profit, although its recovery is threatened by fresh labour unrest across South Africa's platinum belt.
Members of the hardline Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) walked out at Amplats and rivals Impala Platinum and Lonmin last month, demanding their monthly wages be more than doubled.
Wrestling with soaring input costs and suppressed platinum prices, Amplats last year embarked on a restructuring process that saw it mothball some mines and cut jobs.
Another drawn-out strike may lead to another review of its Rustenburg operations in the platinum belt, Chief Executive Chris Griffiths said.
Platinum mine strike to spread as second union joins
Andre Janse van Vuuren & Paul Burkhardt
31 January 2014
A South African strike that's crippling output at the world's three-biggest platinum producers may spread at Anglo American Platinum Ltd. as a second union plans to walk out of its refineries and smelters.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa will tomorrow issue a notice to down tools, Stephen Nhlapo, Numsa's head of basic metals and energy, said today by phone. The union demands pay increases of as much as 10 percent and a 2,500-rand ($224) raise in the lowest-paid workers' basic wage, he said.
"We're just looking at some legalities and adding the final touches" to the notice, Nhlapo said.
Platinum mining in South Africa, which accounts for 70 percent of the world's supply of the metal, has been curbed by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which called its members on strike since Jan. 23 at Anglo American Platinum, known as Amplats, Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc. The AMCU is dominant in platinum with more than 70,000 members and is demanding basic wages to be more than doubled to 12,500 rand.
Numsa is the largest union at Amplats' refineries and smelters, with 1,800 members at those operations, Nhlapo said. The lowest-paid employees get 5,000 rand to 6,000 rand, he said. The refineries and smelters haven't been affected by the AMCU's strike, Amplats said in a statement on Jan. 23.
The AMCU today rejected a pay-increase offer of as much as 9 percent and will continue to strike, union President Joseph Mathunjwa said by phone.
"The employer hasn't demonstrated it is serious about our demands," Mathunjwa said. The offer was presented to the union yesterday after three days of negotiation. Talks would continue tomorrow, he said.
South Africa's biggest gold producers won a court order preventing a strike by the AMCU at the country's largest mines for the metal.
Gold employees represented by the union must report for duty, according to an interim ruling by a labor court in Johannesburg today.
AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co. agreed in September to an 8 percent raise in wages with the National Union of Mineworkers, which represents the most employees in the industry. The companies argued in court that this pay settlement applied to all workers.
A gold strike held before March 14, when another hearing will be held, would be unauthorized and workers could be fired, the labor court ruled.
"A strike at this time would be unprotected," said Elize Strydom, chief negotiator at the Chamber of Mines, which represents gold-mining companies and brought the application to the court.
The AMCU, which speaks for 19 percent of gold-mining employees, had planned to strike at operations where it is the biggest union, including AngloGold's Mponeng, Harmony's Kusasalethu and Sibanye's Driefontein.
"Our focus will now be making sure that there's peace and stability on the mines, making sure that the message goes through to the members of AMCU that they need to continue working," Strydom said.
The AMCU would abide by whatever the court ruled, Mathunjwa said Jan. 22, following a previous hearing.
South Africa's platinum industry is losing an estimated $18 million daily, while employees are forgoing about $8 million in wages, the three companies said.
Amplats, Impala and Lonmin offered to raise total pay by as much as 9 percent in the first year, 8 percent in the second and 7.5 percent in the third, they said in a joint statement yesterday.
The NUM, which the AMCU overtook as a majority union at the three largest platinum producers, signed a two-year deal Jan. 21 to end a two-month strike at Northam Platinum Ltd. that included wage increases of as much as 9.5 percent.
"A 12,500-rand basic wage is simply not feasible in the foreseeable future," Anglo American Platinum Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith said in yesterday's statement.
-With assistance from Kevin Crowley in Johannesburg. Editors: John Viljoen, Ana Monteiro, Amanda Jordan
To contact the reporters on this story: Paul Burkhardt in Johannesburg at firstname.lastname@example.org; Andre Janse van Vuuren in Johannesburg at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at firstname.lastname@example.org
South Africa's platinum strikes continue as rand slides
29 January 2014
Strikes in South Africa's platinum sector have affected the balance sheets of mining companies but they're also taking a toll on the country's economy.
South Africa's Reserve Bank said on Wednesday that the extent to which strikes will impact export levels and as a result the country's current account deficit is still unknown, but the mining sector is expected to remain "under pressure" as work stoppages at major platinum mines continue -- and threaten to spread into the gold sector.
The strike's effects will depend on how long they last and "the extent to which lost output can be compensated for by running down inventories," the Bank wrote.
Workers began labour action last week at the world's three largest platinum producers, Anglo American Platinum, Imapala Platinumm and Lonmin. Together the companies' mines produce half of the world's platinum. South Africa relies on metal exports for more than half of its foreign-exchange earnings, according to Bloomberg.
Companies have been resisting union demands to more than double wages, pointing to weak metal prices as an indication that they can't afford such increases.
As a result of labour action in 2012, Anglo American reported a 29% drop in output that year.
South Africa's Reserve Bank said that mining output had "somewhat" recovered in the final quarter of 2013 following a weak September and that the "sector is expected to have made a positive contribution to fourth quarter growth."
Last week the rand weakened to its lowest level against the US dollar since October 2008. In response, the Reserve Bank raised its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point to 5.5% on Wednesday, following the lead of central banks in Turkey and Brazil. The move only put more pressure on the currency.
80 000 AMCU workers on strike in platinum sector in S Africa
23 January 2014
JOHANNESBURG -- The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) on Thursday morning confirmed that 100% of its membership, or 80 000 workers, had gone on strike at platinum producers Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum (Implats).
"According to reports all our workers are on strike and [AMCU management] will be visiting the members at the various mining sites today," AMCU spokesperson Jimmy Gama told Mining Weekly Online.
AMCU was calling for a wage of R12 500 for entry-level workers at all three platinum producers, he said.
Implats, Amplats and Lonmin were offering between 8% and 8.5% for employees in the A- and B-band bargaining unit, which comprised category 4 to 8 employees, and 7.5% for C level employees, which included miners, artisans and officials.
Accommodation and other allowances would also be increased and the offers to the platinum workers are above the current inflation rate of 5.3%, as had been the case in preceding years.
Amplats on Thursday stated that attendance was low at its Rustenburg, Union and Amandelbult mines, adding that the "no-work, no-pay" principle would apply to all employees who were absent from work.
"We are adamant that we will continue to engage with AMCU and have accepted the offer by the Deputy President for a government-facilitated mediation process to find a resolution. Striking is not a constructive solution if we are to return the company to a sustainable financial footing and secure existing jobs," Amplats CEO Chris Griffith said in a statement.
Department of Labour (DoL) spokesperson Musa Zondi on Thursday told Mining Weekly Online that AMCU had agreed to a meeting with the employers to be arranged by government. However, the DoL was still waiting on AMCU to provide it with a suitable date and, therefore, the meeting would probably not take place on Friday as was originally planned.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) on Thursday called on all working people and communities around the mines to support the AMCU strike, stating that the R12 500 demand was "fair and reasonable".
"The mineworkers have been robbed enough in this country. South Africa produces 75% of platinum in the world but workers are still paid peanuts, their living conditions are appalling and the communities around the mines are distressing," NACTU president Joseph Maqhekeni said in a statement.
The council also called on the platinum miners to come to the table with the offer demanded as it was "fair and reasonable and can be afforded".
Meanwhile, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Wednesday stated that its members were not on strike and that they would, therefore, report for work on Thursday.
"We strongly appeal to workers who will be going on strike tomorrow to respect the freedom of choice and freedom of association of our members who will be going to work. Our members must go to work without being intimidated and threatened with violence," the NUM said in a statement.
The union also appealed to the police to be on the alert and protect workers who would be reporting to work for the world's top platinum producers.
"The employers must ensure safety of the workers who are intending and reporting for duty. Cases of intimidation must be recorded and security systems must be improved," the NUM added.
Amplats said that it would be working together with law enforcement agencies to help maintain peace and stability during the strike, stating that additional safety and security measures had been employed in and around operations and that AMCU members were made aware of the designated picketing areas.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that public order policing would be deployed to ensure the peace and security of the striking mineworkers and the general public.
"Police will be deployed to ensure peace and security but the strike remains a labour matter and the South African Police Service would like to urge all participants and striking miners to respect authority and the rule of law as they exercise their democratic right," said the SAPS.
Cautionary measures that had been taken included no dangerous weapons being allowed during the gatherings of the strikers, the SAPS said, adding that the Dangerous Weapons Act, that came into effect on January 2, 2014, would be applicable.
This Act defined dangerous weapons as "any object other than a firearm, capable of causing death or inflicting serious bodily harm, if it were used for any unlawful purpose". These weapons included, among others, homemade weapons, spears and pangas, the SAPS explained.
Meanwhile, NACTU called on the SAPS not to provoke the strikers.
"This can be peaceful if police [do not] provoke the workers. SAPS, please stay away from the workers exercising their rights," Maqhekeni requested.
Meanwhile, the Gauteng Labour Court on Wednesday put a temporary hold on AMCU's proposed gold strike until January 30, following a successful application to the court by the Chamber of Mines of South Africa on behalf of AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony and Sibanye Gold.
The court stated that it was unable to give its judgment immediately and needed time to consider the arguments by both parties.
Until it made its judgment on January 30, the court ordered that the strike was not permitted to take place.
The chamber argued for an interdict against the strike on the grounds that the gold sector's wage settlement of September represented 72% of employees and had thus been extended to cover all employees in the relevant bargaining unit, in which the NUM, United Association of South Africa and Solidarity were represented.
Amplats losing R100m a day as result of strikes
24 January 2014
JOHANNESBURG -- Platinum miner Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) was losing 4 000 oz/d of platinum, resulting in a daily revenue loss of R100-million as a result of the industrial action at its Rustenburg, Union and Amandelbult operations, the company said on Friday.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) on Thursday started its strike for an entry-level wage of R12 500 at Amplats, Lonmin and Impala Platinum (Implats), with the miners confirming low attendance.
Amplats on Friday said the attendance rates at its affected operations remained low at 10%, while Implats on Thursday recorded 10% attendance.
Lonmin and Implats on Thursday stated that, during the strike, they expected to lose about 3 100 oz/d and 2 800 oz/d in platinum production respectively.
Amplats stated that the situation on the ground remained calm with sporadic disregard for the picketing rules by striking employees.
"The company has noted, with disappointment, and condemns the increase in incidences of violence and intimidation taking place around Rustenburg and surrounding communities," the miner said.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) on Friday also stated that there had been reports of violent incidents breaking out near the platinum mine strikes.
Brigadier Thulane Ngubane said, in a statement, that roads had been barricaded and other incidents that were in "contravention of the law" were reported. However, AMCU general secretary Jimmy Gama denied the reports, stating that the strike was peaceful and no violent outbursts had been reported.
Trade union Uasa also said in a statement that its members in the platinum belt were being intimidated by AMCU to such an extent that a mere 11% succeeded in reaching their workplaces at Amplats, Implats and Lonmin.
"The remaining Uasa members employed by these mines were too afraid to go to work for a variety of reasons," Uasa spokesperson Andre Venter said, adding that, should its members not be provided with a safe working environment, the union would have no option but to withdraw its members from the workplaces posing a safety risk.
AMCU and executives of the three platinum companies would on Monday resume the government-sponsored mediation talks started on Friday in an attempt to end the strike in the sector.
Edited by: Tracy Hancock
Impala Platinum shuts down mine ahead of strike; gov't tries to mediate
22 January 2014
With a major strike set to begin at dawn, South Africa's Impala Platinum (Implats) has shut down its Rustengurg operations for safety reasons.
After six months of failed negotiations between the company and the Association of Miner Workers and Construction Union (AMCU), Rustenburg miners will officially be on strike as of the morning shift on January 23. Workers at Anlgo American Platinum and Lonmin will also begin labour action tomorrow. Together these companies produce more than half of the world's platinum.
According to Reuters, Implats shut down its Rustenburg operations early in order to ensure the safety of its employees. Labour action and rivalries between mining unions have often led to violence in South Africa, with the most notorious incident resulting in 34 deaths at a Lonmin mine close to Rustenburg in 2012.
An Implats spokesperson told Reuters that workers who reported for work during the strike would be paid even if operations were shut down.
Implats' Mimosa, Zimplats, Marula, Two Rivers and refining sites will not be affected by the impending strike action, the company noted earlier this week. Implats recently signed a two-year wage agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers -- a major rivcal to AMCU -- at its Marula and refining operations.
AMCU has been increasing its membership among platinum miners over the past year; Last August the organization officially ousted NUM as the official union for Lonmin.
Labour action can have -- and has had -- major impacts on production. In 2012, Anglo American reported a 29% drop in output due to strikes. A research director at Thomson Reuters GFMS recently told Kitco News that investors should keep an eye on platinum as it's "almost inevitable" that the labour action will lead to a "disruption on the platinum side."
Meanwhile, the South African government has stepped in to try and mediate the dispute. According to Reuters the three companies have agreed to meet and the AMCU has "indicated that in principle they are willing to negotiate."
The gold sector could also face strikes but a court is currently blocking this while it reviews the legality of AMCU-led labour action in the bullion sector.
Wage negotiations have been dragging on in the platinum sector for more than half a year now. Implats' latest offer increases the minimum guaranteed wage from R7,996 ($735) to R10,017 ($921) per month for surface workers and from R8,697 to R10,896 per month for underground workers.
AMCU is asking for a minimum basic wage at the entry level of R11,500 and R12,500 for surface and underground workers respectively, and a range of other improvements in allowances and conditions of employment, Implats noted earlier this week.
Security tightens at platinum mines as 70,000 go on strike
Andre Janse van Vuuren
23 January 2014
South Africa deployed extra police across its platinum belt, the world's richest deposit of the metal, to tighten security as at least 70,000 workers prepared to begin a strike at the start of today's early shift.
Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc, the world's three largest producers, put increased safety measures in place as the nation sought to avoid a repeat of labor unrest that claimed the lives of at least 44 workers in the area, northwest of Johannesburg, in August 2012.
The strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union will disrupt operations accounting for about 70 percent of global output of the precious metal. The union says it will maintain the walkout until its demand that wages for the lowest-paid entry-level miners are more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,150) is met.
The South African Police Service sent additional officers to the platinum producing areas of the North West province "to make sure that whoever is going to work or coming out of work finds security," spokesman Thulani Ngubane said by phone. Police would be in place "in the streets and public areas, so that we don't have problems of people intimidating and stopping other going to work," he said.
Fewer AMCU members will go on strike than was originally planned. A Johannesburg labor court judge yesterday ruled that the union can't begin a simultaneous strike by about 20,000 of its members at some of South Africa's largest gold mines until he delivers a ruling Jan. 30 on whether their action is legal.
Amplats, as the largest producer is known, yesterday started shutting down operations at sites where the AMCU is the majority union, spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said by phone.
Impala, the second-biggest producer, has closed some operations and canceled the night shift to prevent non-striking employees from having to arrive or leave during darkness, spokesman Johan Theron said by phone. "We don't want to create an impression the company is trying to break the strike by continuing as normal," he said.
Lonmin's operations will continue throughout the night until the strike starts, spokeswoman Sue Vey said.
While police will maintain order, those involved in the strike must cooperate with the authorities, Thabo Masebe, a spokesman for South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, said by phone.
"We have the assurance from the parties that they will conduct their affairs within the law," Masebe said. Motlanthe last year brokered a peace agreement whereby mining companies and unions committed to keep to the law during disputes. The AMCU didn't sign the agreement.
The union will respect the right of employees who choose to go to work, President Joseph Mathunjwa said this week.