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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9009
JPY
USD
123.09
GBP
USD
0.6387
CAD
USD
1.2524
INR
USD
63.605

Rates may not be current.