Collective bargaining won’t solve SA mining’s problems: AMCU

Claims stalemate in Lonmin peace talks with conveners applying ‘divide and rule’ tactics

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have said that collective bargaining in the platinum sector won’t be the solution to the socio-economic challenges currently being faced by mine employees.

“You know we can have all these fancy bargaining structures but if the core issue hasn’t been addressed in terms of how to get the working class outside the poverty line it will be just another process” said AMCU president, Joseph Mathunjwa.

Workers at the mine are demanding a basic salary (which excludes company contributions and allowances) of R12 500 per month. Lonmin has confirmed that the basic salary for a rock drill operator is currently R5 405 per month.

The union leader said that one only had to look to those mines that are part of existing collective bargaining forums.

“But also, for those mines that are centralised, that are bargaining in the Chamber of Mines, go and look at their surroundings, go and look at the social conditions of the workers, is there any difference than [sic] Lonmin? Nothing, it is just the same” said Mathunjwa.

Other office bearers of the union, the national treasurer, Jimmy Gama as well as general secretary, Jeff Mphahlele pointed to difficulties in the road freight and security bargaining councils as well as the potential isolation of stakeholders outside these councils.

Mathunjwa was speaking at a press briefing in Johannesburg today after the union said that it was deliberately side-lined yesterday at Lonmin peace talks in Rustenburg.

The union painted a picture of an impasse in talks at the peace accord chaired by the department of labour and said that it might consider a return to the table should an invitation be extended.

Mathunjwa claimed that workers wanted their demands for higher wages to be addressed but that Lonmin was refusing to do so unless the peace accord was first agreed to and signed.

Mathunjwa accused the conveners of the peace talks of ‘divide and conquer’ tactics saying that the behaviour by the department of labour and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) raised serious questions and that they had ‘lost credibility’.

The union also raised the topic of wage gaps and pay structures saying that poverty was being repeated from one generation to the next.

“You’ll remember these pay structures that we are experiencing in the mines are the apartheid pay structures that were there for ages which the capitalists are benefitting out of because it doesn’t address the social lives of people” said the union leader.

During the press briefing, news broke of 12 000 employees embarking on a wildcat strike at miner Gold Field’s KDC East mine. Informal feedback provided to the miner said that the strike was related mainly to disagreements within organised labour and related structures on the mine.

Mathunjwa denied any involvement with the strike. “We don’t have members at Gold Fields, we don’t have any recognition [agreements] there so we are not party to any developments there”.

Any relationship between AMCU and firebrand Julius Malema was also denied.

“There is no relation, maybe the cause is the same, he is plotting the cause in another direction” laughed Mathunjwa.

iPad version : Members of the AMCU gather at a hill dubbed the “Hill of Horror” during a memorial service for miners killed during clashes with police: SIPHIWE SIBEKO / Reuters

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