Amcu: Talk about the real problem

Sep 03 2012 07:58
Dewald van Rensburg

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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 the meetings.

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 negotiation.”

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 involved.

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’s impression.

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.

 - Sake24

For more business news in Afrikaans, go to Sake24.com

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lonmin  |  amcu  |  num  |  wage disputes  |  mining unrest


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