News / Economy

S. Africa Strike Hits More than Half Global Platinum Production

Mine workers protest outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 23, 2014.
Mine workers protest outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 23, 2014.
Anita Powell
South Africa’s most powerful platinum mining union has launched an indefinite strike, demanding a significant salary hike for entry-level miners.  The strike affects more than half the global platinum production.  The action is another blow to a sector still struggling to recover from a 2012 wildcat strike that led to a police confrontation that left 34 miners dead.
 
About 70,000 workers at three of South Africa’s largest platinum mines failed to clock in Thursday after negotiations between their union and the mines failed to reach an agreement.
 
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union is demanding a minimum wage of about $1,200 (R12,500) for platinum miners at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum, and Lonmin, which account for the bulk of the world’s platinum production.
 
AMCU treasurer Jimmy Gama did not answer repeated calls seeking comment.
 
Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said just 15 percent of the company’s employees showed up for work Thursday.  The strike, she said, is losing the company 3,100 ounces of platinum per day, worth nearly $4.5 million.

Impala Platinum, or Implats, also said this week the union's demands would more than double their wage bill.  Implats noted that AMCU’s rival union, the National Union of Mineworkers, had forged a two-year agreement for much more modest raises at another of its mines.
 
Lonmin spokeswoman Vey said AMCU’s demands are unsustainable.

“The demands made by AMCU, you know, will affect the sustainability of the business.  And we have had months of negotiations and management has made a number of offers to AMCU, but they have all been rejected... but we believe the offers have been fair and that they are sustainable for the business,” said Sue Vey.
 
Lonmin has a grave history with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.  In 2012, the AMCU, then a minority union to the larger National Union of Mineworkers, was blamed for leading an illegal strike at Lonmin, demanding the same salary as they are today.
 
During a clash in the nearly two month work stoppage, South African police shot dead 34 of the strikers.  
 
Unions at odds

More than a year ago, an official with the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions predicted the AMCU, an upstart union, would fizzle out.  It did not, instead it grew, gobbling up members from NUM.
 
But police say by the one-year anniversary of the shooting they had documented more than a dozen tit-for-tat killings of representatives of the two main unions.  Residents near the mines said they felt under constant threat from union-backed thugs.  

Police, who set up a special unit for mine crimes in the wake of the 2012 shooting, said they deployed forces to keep peace Thursday around a strikers' rally at a stadium near the Lonmin mine.

But NUM General-Secretary Frans Baleni says his members are being pulled into AMCU’s strike against their will, and called for police to prevent violence.

“Well, it has been brought to our attention that around Impala, in particular, there were three people who have been assaulted who were on their way to work, and in Lonmin yesterday and the day before threats were made openly that anybody who might attempt to go to work will be permanently eliminated from planet Earth.  So clearly they were using intimidation with the intention of ensuring that non-strikers are not participating,” said Baleni.

Top South African officials have expressed concern about the platinum strike and a possible gold mining strike.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told South Africa’s state broadcaster that 18 months of struggles in the platinum sector have left the nation unable to afford the toll this strike may take.  

But this strike may also have a political cost for President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress party, who face national elections this year.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8143
JPY
USD
119.23
GBP
USD
0.6390
CAD
USD
1.1596
INR
USD
63.304

Rates may not be current.