ON Thursday, make or break talks to end the three-month platinum mining strike collapsed once again.
The third face-to-face meeting between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the employers, Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin ended without an agreement.
The mineworkers downed tools in January, demanding a R 12,500 basic salary per month.
Employers and AMCU held two round table discussions on Thursday, but in the end the union rejected the employers’ latest offer to increase wages to R 12,500 over five years by tweaking benefits and allowances for mineworkers.
The employers have called off the talks and demanded that AMCU leaders go and foist the settlement package on their striking members, otherwise they will attempt to do it.
The strike has cost the three platinum giants over R 21 billion in lost revenue and salaries.
In a statement, AMCU said: ‘It is with dismay that our latest proposal at reaching a settlement was arrogantly rebuffed by the platinum cartel of Angloplats, Impala and Lonmin.
‘We made several different proposals based on increases to the basic pay of the lowest paid workers.
‘These proposals looked at ways of addressing the affordability concerns of the employers within the mandate of our members.
‘In spite of all our efforts we were faced with complete intransigence and games of smoke and mirrors. The employers refused to provide information on the cost of these different proposals.
‘When Angloplats eventually presented us with their calculation today after 13 weeks of the strike, it was found to be exaggerated by between R300 and R500 million.
‘Their unaffordability argument collapsed when they were forced to acknowledge their false claim. Even the government officials observing the negotiations were left bewildered by their methods. AMCU will address mass meetings of its members exposing the behaviour of the employers.
‘We were extremely livid at these underhand methods. It is difficult to predict how our members will react and what mandate they will give us faced with this situation.
‘The lack of seriousness with which the Cartel is approaching the negotiations was evidenced by the failure of most CEOs and CFOs to attend. We are left with the strong impression that there is a hidden agenda at play.
‘This too will be discussed with our members and we will work out a joint strategy to break the employers’ intransigence and arrogance. This will include solidarity actions and efforts with our brothers and sisters all over the world where these companies operate and market their metals.
‘The employers must know that we will not be diverted from our just struggle for a decent life for our members and for all mineworkers in our country. Nevertheless, we as a responsible union remain optimistic that we will find a solution to this impasse.’
• Talks also broke down yesterday over a settlement to the 11-day strike at Continental Tyres in Port Elizabeth by workers in the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).
Over 900 workers downed tools last week (Tuesday 15 April), and proceeded to picket the company’s Sidwell plant, demanding time-and-a-half payment for working on Saturdays and double rates for Sundays in accordance with a bargaining council agreement reached in 2010.
The workers sing struggle songs and dance while carrying placards which read: ‘Stop maximising profit by using cheap labour’.
Eastern Cape Regional Secretary of NUMSA, Phumzile Nodongwe, addressed the strikers on Friday as production was again halted. Company spokeswoman Nomfundo Hlela revealed their scabbing operation by stating ‘production has started with non-NUMSA members’.
Numsa also issued a statement ahead of this Sunday’s 20th anniversary celebrations to mark the end of apartheid rule. NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim said: ‘On the 27th of April this month, we will be celebrating 20 years of our neo-liberal liberal democracy which has not uprooted our colonial economy and society, and its symptoms of mass poverty, unemployment and extreme inequalities.
‘Our ruling politicians and elites are busy spreading the ideological fog of a “good story to tell”, whilst the Black African majority is faced with abject poverty and living under scandalous conditions 20 years into our neoliberal democracy.
‘Our country remains a place where poverty and opulence exist side-by-side. The economic jewellery of our country still resides in the hands of our previous oppressors; whilst we, the majority of South Africans who are Black and working class, only celebrate our stinking shacks or Apartheid old streets re-named after our liberation stalwarts.
‘Our true story remains that of class struggle to build an egalitarian society as envisaged in the Freedom Charter, as opposed to the current neo-liberal path that favours the bosses and politicians and their extended families.
‘For us the working class, it is aluta continua! For them, it is Looting Continues!’
• President Jacob Zuma has described the Marikana massacre on 16 August 2012 as an ‘unfortunate incident’ that happened in spite of South Africa’s ‘very good collective bargaining framework’.
Addressing a group of leaders from the Afrikaans community at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria on Wednesday night, blamed the AMCU and platinum producer Lonmin for the overall situation.
He claimed that fewer miners would have died at Marikana if the police had been ‘more firm’ in the days leading up to the police shootings.
• The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEWAHU) of South Africa has welcomed the Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
NEHAWU reaffirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, noting that the two factions move to form a unity government comes seven years after Hamas broke away from the Palestinian government in the West Bank.
Last week’s decision by Fatah and Hamas led to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu breaking off peace talks unless PLO leader Mahmud Abbas cancels the unity deal with the Gaza Strip government, meaning ‘peace’ talks brokered by the US are effectively over.
In a statement issued by the NEHAWU Secretariat Office, the union states: ‘This is a positive and a welcome development and hopefully will strengthen the struggle for a free and independent Palestine.
‘The reaction from the Israeli government and its apologists was to be expected because they do not want to see the people of Palestine united against their racist and oppressive regime.
‘The divisions amongst the Palestinians were benefitting the apartheid state of Israel and its sponsors.
‘NEHAWU will continue to give its maximum support to the struggle for a free Palestine including supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and its associated activities including the annual Israeli Apartheid Week. We will continue to ensure that every local municipality/government department is an Israeli Apartheid-Free Zone.
‘We call upon our government and all others around the world to acknowledge the divisive nature of the Israeli state and to argue for its isolation until it is prepared to dismantle its apartheid infrastructure in favour of democratisation and commit to abiding by UN resolutions.
‘We will continue to speak out against all forms of discrimination including anti-semitism, Islamophobia and other sectarian sentiments in favour of a secular and tolerant approach to the crisis in the region.
‘We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Palestine and we are calling for an end to the evictions of the Palestinians from their lands. We are fully behind the call for all political prisoners and detainees to be released immediately.
‘Our union supports the formation of an independent Palestinian state with East-Jerusalem as its capital. The Israelis must affirm the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.’
The message of solidarity with workers and youth in Palestine comes as class antagonisms in South Africa also deepen and sharpen, with strikes in the mining sector and amongst car workers continuing.