11 June 2014

South Africa: Lack of Solution in Platinum Strike Concerning - Attorneys

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Striking mine workers (file photo).

Johannesburg — The SA Attorneys Association (SAAA) expressed concern on Wednesday at the inability of role-players in the platinum mining sector wage dispute to find a solution.

"The SAAA calls on the new Minister of [Mineral Resources] Ngoako Ramatlhodi to persuade Amcu and the mining companies to agree to resolve the dispute by arbitration," it said in a statement.

"An arbitration tribunal of experts... can be given the mandate to hear representations and to finally determine what minimum wage would be fair to all parties."

It said this would enable all parties to save face without having to make unpopular concessions.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have been on strike at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum, and Lonmin in the North West platinum belt since January 23 demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500.

They have so far rejected the companies' offer that would bring their cash remuneration to R12,500 by July 2017.

So far, employees have forfeited wages of around R9.7 billion, according to a website set up by the companies www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za. The industry has lost some R22bn in revenue.

Ramatlhodi announced this week he was withdrawing from the talks between Amcu and the mining companies. This was after he set up an intergovernmental task team two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, the minister said there was a deficiency in South African law because there was no law which helped when negotiations hit a deadlock.

"We don't have deadlock breaking mechanisms in terms of government. If I had that tool at my disposal I could have used it," he said referring to the almost five-month-old strike.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said changing labour laws to impose a settlement would not be a good idea.

"Such a solution would have to be enforced by the police and we have already seen that the relationship between the police and the trade unions is volatile to say the least," chamber president Janine Myburgh said in a statement.

"We need a solution that is acceptable to both parties and there are better ways to achieve this."

However, the SAAA agreed with Ramatlhodi.

"The department of labour should consider an amendment to the Labour Relations Act, to provide a deadlock-breaking mechanism for protracted strikes, by making wage arbitration compulsory after a strike has lasted for a certain period... without resolving the dispute," it said.

"Wage arbitrations are already compulsory in essential services and seem to be working well."

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