IMPALA Platinum said on Tuesday that an agreement has been reached with the AMCU trade union on a ‘broad wage offer to end a five-month-long strike but details such as the time-frame and additional benefits are still to be agreed’.
Johan Theron a spokesman for Impala platinum said: ‘The big principle in the offer has been agreed to. It’s just other smaller issues like the time-frame and housing allowance that needs talking about.’
The platinum producers had received the union’s response to a wage offer from the companies on Monday and all parties were due to to continue discussions this week, he added.
The five-month-old strike has hit output at mines that normally account for 40 per cent of global platinum supply and is threatening to drag Africa’s most advanced economy into recession.
Siphamandla Makhanya, an AMCU shop steward, said the union would call a mass meeting this week in the platinum belt to decide on the latest company offers.
Last week, thousands of workers and AMCU shop stewards at separate meetings at Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin called for the wage deal to be signed. The strike by 70,000 miners is the longest and costliest strike in South Africa’s history.
Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters has pledged to donate another R50,000 to the AMCU strike fund. EFF leader Julius Malema made the announcement at the party’s June 16 rally in Freedom Park, Rustenburg.
Malema said: ‘We will never retreat from supporting workers. That is why we gave R50,000 to the strike fund. We will put another R50,000 tomorrow (Tuesday).’
He called on workers to protect AMCU leaders. He added that Freedom Park was the home of the EFF and AMCU.
Malema also criticised ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and said the EFF represents the interests of workers while the ANC often does not.
At a media briefing last week, Mantashe accused the EFF of turning the platinum wage dispute into a political strike.
On Saturday, at a post-election rally in Wonderkop, Marikana, Malema criticised South African President Jacob Zuma.
Amcu members at Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin went on strike on January 23 for a basic monthly salary of R12,500.
Platinum producers proposed to increase the salary of the lowest-paid workers by R1,000 for two years and R950 in the third year. This excluded other benefits. The proposed settlement was for three years.
• The platinum mine workers are discussing holding ‘back to work’ marches across the platinum belt, including at Marikana, the scene of the massacre in August 2012.
Obed Kgaladi, a locomotive driver at Impala Platinum, said: ‘It is better not to work and suffer than to work and to suffer . . .
‘I want a decent place to stay, healthcare, a car and money to pay school fees for my four children. ‘These are not simply demands for better wages.
‘These are cries for human dignity. Because any parent who cannot provide shelter and educate their children is stripped of their dignity.’
Kgaladi and his 70,000 co-workers have achieved what they were strong enough to get — and it is substantially more than was initially offered.
This deal takes the lowest-paid entry-level miner’s pay to R10,000 in three years and close to R12,500 for rock-drill operators.
In Miners Shot Down, a documentary on the massacre, workers sing in praise of their leader, Mgcineni Noki, ‘the man in the green blanket’.
They were determined to avenge Noki’s death after the police pumped 14 bullets into his body. The murder of Noki and his 33 co-workers will forever mark the moment when the post-apartheid bubble burst in bloodshed.
The R12,500 demand was about putting an end to a system that has defined mining in this country for more than a century. Black people were forced off their land and became suppliers of cheap labour to the mines.
This cheap labour was the major factor in the 1922 miners strike, when white miners revolted against a Chamber of Mines plan to replace what it regarded as expensive labour in a white skin with cheaper labour in a black skin. Cheap black labour has remained a constant in mining ever since.
The past two decades saw the co-option of the new political elite into this arrangement, aided by a cosy relationship with the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers.
The most prominent example of this was Cyril Ramaphosa, now deputy president, who morphed from union leader to mining boss shortly after 1994. Many of his erstwhile comrades were similarly transformed into multimillionaires after mining companies cut them deals in black economic empowerment schemes.
But despite the new darker hue of the faces at the top, cheap black and migrant labour remained the mainstay of South African mining. The platinum strike was about more than extra cash.
It has forced a discussion about the value system that has come to define post-apartheid South Africa — one that has deracialised obscene consumption, while excluding the vast majority of poor South Africans, most of whom are black.
Ramaphosa is now worth billions of rands, when all his workers want is to afford decent shelter and an education for their children.
Hundreds of millions of rand in public funds have been used to upgrade the house of president Zuma just because he happens to be the president of the country.
The struggle for a better life has been declared and the miners have taken the lead.