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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8050
JPY
USD
117.90
GBP
USD
0.6376
CAD
USD
1.1259
INR
USD
61.655

Rates may not be current.