Johannesburg – The “peace accord” that Lonmin [JSE:LON], government
and unions have been trying to negotiate in Rustenburg for more than a week is
largely a smokescreen to avoid really focusing on wage demands, claims the
Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu).
Lonmin has set this accord as a precondition for discussion
of strikers’ wage demands.
The Lonmin strike has entered its fourth week and
negotiations for an accord will continue in the Rustenburg Civic Centre on
Monday. Last week the mining group was saying that negotiations on the demands
should, by rights, be conducted by the unions.
On Friday it was again proposed that the workers’ own
non-union representatives be excluded from the meeting.
Earlier last week there had in fact been a meeting with the
workers’ own representatives attending.
At a media conference on Friday Amcu president Joseph
Mathunjwa said the workers were uncomfortable with the unions’ presence. “Had
it been only Lonmin, the workers and the churches, this thing could have been
resolved long ago.”
The negotiations are however now degenerating into a “power
play”, with the emphasis on the parties’ roles rather than on the real issue,
according to Mathunjwa.
The meetings are being led by the Department of Labour director-general and deputy
director-general, as well as top officials from the Commission for
Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Lonmin, the unions – the
National Union of Mineworkers (Num), Uasa and Solidarity – the South African
Council of Churches and a committee of worker representatives are involved in
It's uncertain whether Amcu will be involved in the process
any further but, if invited, would “consider” joining, said Mathunjwa.
“Demands are demands – they involve give and take. We
support anything that will give the workers a better life if this is based on
Lonmin's concern about the peace accord is, according to
Mathunjwa, simply an attempt to present the strike as a battle between Amcu and
the Num, but in reality it's a wage strike in which the unions are not
If there is to be a peace accord, he said, then Lonmin, the
police service and the workers have to be involved.
According to Mathunjwa, the workers’ delegation at
Thursday’s meeting said it was not interested in an accord because it was not a
war. The demand for a basic wage of R12 500 a month compared to the current R5
400 (before allowances) stands.
On Thursday evening Amcu was excluded from the negotiations.
Its delegates were apparently asked to wait outside for a while, but were then
not invited back, said Mathunjwa.
The actions of the department and the CCMA were
questionable, he said. The Council of Churches had also complained and the
workers’ delegation had accused the chairperson of bias. This was not only
Amcu also unambiguously rejected the proposal for a
central bargaining council in the mining sector, which would end the platinum
industry’s separate wage negotiations per mining group.
This proposal was put forward after the massacre at Marikana
as a solution for stabilising labour relations in the platinum sector, but it
would probably destroy minority unions and entrench the Num’s dominance, even
if the NUM has lost considerable support at certain platinum mines.
You can create complex structures, but then you simply shift
the problem to a higher level. That does nothing to resolve the problems of the
working class, said Mathunjwa.
The gold sector, where the biggest mining companies have
central bargaining over wages, in no way offers workers a better life than do
the platinum mines, he reckons.
Jeff Mphahlele, Amcu’s general secretary, labelled the idea
of a bargaining council something that benefits the employers and their chosen
unions and holds little advantage for workers.
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