News / Economy

South Africa's AMCU Union Digs In on Platinum Strike

Joseph Mathunjwa (R), President of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) arrives at a mediation meeting in Johannesburg, Jan. 24, 2014.
Joseph Mathunjwa (R), President of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) arrives at a mediation meeting in Johannesburg, Jan. 24, 2014.
Reuters
South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) vowed on Thursday to continue a strike against the world's top three platinum
producers, a move its president described as a "fight for survival" by workers.

AMCU's intention to dig in for the long haul dashes any hope for the stoppage to end soon. The strike, already a month old, has hit over 40 percent of global platinum production and dealt a blow to investor confidence in Africa's largest economy.

"We are prepared to see it through," AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa told a news briefing.

AMCU members downed tools four weeks ago in a wage dispute at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.

Asked how long they would strike, Mathunjwa replied, "until we achieve a settlement that is accommodative of our 12,500 rand ($1,100) a month demand".

AMCU's battle cry has been for a more than doubling of the basic entry wage to 12,500 rand a month, which companies have said they cannot afford.

The chief executives of the three companies drew their own line in the sand on Wednesday, saying their latest offer of pay hikes of up to 9 percent was final and pushed the boundaries of what they could bear given depressed prices and rising costs.

Companies say that if bonuses, housing and other allowances are also taken into account, their latest offer would guarantee minimum pay of at least 9,390 rand to entry-level miners.

But Mathunjwa said workers were prepared to stick it out.

"This is not about time, it's about the cause," said Mathunjwa, flanked by about 30 AMCU shop stewards clad in the union's trade-mark green shirts. "Ours is a fight for survival."

World views apart

It is hardly surprising that the two sides remained so polarized as they see the world through radically different lenses and use a different vocabulary.

The companies look at their income statements, cash flows and balance sheets, a point driven home on Wednesday by their chief executives, who spoke of an "affordable, achievable and sustainable resolution" to the strike.

AMCU - if taken at its word - takes the long view of history and sees the showdown as the natural outcome of a long and bloody conflict between capital and labor, and white colonial powers and Africans.

Mathunjwa, in a long and at times rambling monologue, spoke on Thursday of a "cancerous relationship" marked by "profiteering ... through many centuries with significant benefits to the Anglo-Saxon world and the Americans".

The companies talk about the "current weak state of the platinum market".

Mathunjwa evokes "super-exploitative mechanisms" and said on Thursday that "the mining sector for many centuries has been feeding off the sweat and blood of black workers".

In many parts of the world, unions and management take very different stances on issues of equity and economics, especially when negotiating pay and benefits.

But in few places are the differences so stark and the stakes so high, as AMCU has emerged as the top union on South Africa's platinum belt - a trillion-dollar resource by some estimates - after poaching tens of thousands of members from the once-unrivalled National Union of Mineworkers.

Mathunjwa also said when it comes to executive pay, "captains of industry don't complain as it benefits capital.

When it is workers who are demanding a genuine living wage, we are told that this is unaffordable and will affect investor confidence in the country".

There was a moment of levity when Mathunjwa, a Salvation Army lay preacher, suggested the companies were "demonically possessed" and would require a "laying of hands" to drive out the demons.

Earlier, the shop stewards had danced and sung praise songs - a tradition in some African cultures - to Mathunjwa, another marked difference from the staid press conference given by the executives on Wednesday.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8770
JPY
USD
119.68
GBP
USD
0.6414
CAD
USD
1.3265
INR
USD
66.194

Rates may not be current.