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Vol. 78/No. 5      February 10, 2014

SAfrica platinum miners strike,
demand double minimum wage
(front page)
More than 70,000 miners in South Africa went on strike against the three largest platinum companies in the world Jan. 23, demanding that the starting monthly wage be doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,120).

On the eve of the strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the three mining companies — Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin — issued a statement calling the wage demand “unaffordable and unrealistic.”

The companies offered an 8 to 8.5 percent wage increase for the lowest paid workers and 7.5 percent for the rest, just a little over the official inflation rate of 5.3 percent.

“What they are offering isn’t even enough to buy another two loaves of bread for the whole month,” AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa told the Militant by phone Jan. 24.

The fight for a 12,500 rand minimum wage was a central part of a strike wave by platinum, gold, chrome and other miners that swept the country at the end of 2012.

The government-allied National Union of Mineworkers, which had been the main union in the mines, opposed those strikes. Today AMCU is the majority union in the platinum belt and also has a majority at several gold mines.

AMCU refused to sign a two-tier wage agreement in September and announced its intention to strike Sibanye Gold’s Dreifontein Mine, Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu and Masimong mines, and AngloGold’s Ashanti operation. But the union has held off in face of a labor court order while judges consider a request for an injunction from the gold mining companies.

Bosses in South Africa are worried that the strike over wages could inspire other workers. “Strikes beget strikes,” Andrew Levy, who advises businesses on union busting, told South Africa’s Mail & Guardian Jan. 19. The paper seemed surprised that the 25 percent unemployment rate has “not deterred the demands” of the miners.

“If you look around the mines, you will find those who work underground living in corrugated tin shacks,” Mathunjwa said. “You’ll see wasted areas where the mines have destroyed nature, the environmental laws have been breached and the companies face no consequences. Look at what the workers produce for the mines and at the end of the day the miners have nothing in their hands.”
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