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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9093
    JPY
    USD
    104.27
    GBP
    USD
    0.7612
    CAD
    USD
    1.3233
    INR
    USD
    67.329

    Rates may not be current.