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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7798
JPY
USD
106.41
GBP
USD
0.6203
CAD
USD
1.1242
INR
USD
61.430

Rates may not be current.