29 June 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - AMCU Victory Is More Than Just About the Figures


Gilad Isaacs underestimates the scale of AMCU's victory (Who won the Platinum strike? The figures speak, Daily Maverick, 27 June 2014). His analysis offers an indicator of winner/loser based on contrasting the final settlement with the initial demand and initial offer. But this is arbitrary. Workers' demands are based on various considerations, including views about what is just and assessments about what constitutes a good mobilising and/or bargaining position.

They never (or rarely) expect to get everything they demand. The demand is a means to an end. What matters is the end, and the new balance of forces associated with that end.

In this instance, R12,500 was the obvious demand. Thirty four comrades had been massacred in the course of fighting for the sum. It had enormous emotional significance and was undoubtedly important in maintaining the unity of the strike. But, as in 2012, there was no expectation that the full sum could be won immediately.

For workers, the main - though not the only - calculation is the difference between what they were paid before the strike and what they receive after the strike. Before, the strike, back in January, low-paid mining workers typically received about...

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