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Oliphant calls for stability

Oct 05 2012 21:00

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Johannesburg - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant called on Friday for stability to be restored in the platinum sector.

"There are still worrying numbers of workers on strike," she said at the announcement of a platinum industry discussion forum in Johannesburg.

"It is important that stability returns to the platinum sector as soon as possible."

The current strike action and negotiations in the industry raised many challenges for the labour relations dispensation and collective bargaining institutions.

"How we respond to these challenges will impact on the future of labour relations in South Africa," she said.

When negotiating wage settlements, non-unionised workers should also be consulted. At Lonmin, workers who were not part of the National Union of Mineworkers had complained about a lack of information.

Collective bargaining agreements needed innovative approaches and to go beyond wages and living conditions. Multi-year agreements were preferred, but could be reviewed on an annual basis if warranted.

Representatives of platinum companies and unions attended the meeting, which was held at the Chamber of Mines and was chaired by independent facilitators.

Facilitator Charles Nupen said there had been a "surprising" degree of unanimity from unions and companies.

Five issues had been identified for discussion: industry sustainability, centralised bargaining arrangements, wages, industry stability, and socio-economic problems.

"There is a need for us to engage on a set of agreements to restore stability to the industry," he said.

Talks would start on Monday towards achieving an industry-wide agreement by the end of the month.

The platinum industry has been hard hit by wildcat strikes in recent months.

At Lonmin's Marikana mine, 46 people died in August in strike-related unrest. The company later agreed to grant workers a 22% pay rise and a once-off bonus of R2000 each to return to work.

This agreement has been controversial as it was made outside the industry's collective bargaining arrangements.

Strikes have since spread to other sectors of the industry, including gold and chrome.

On Thursday, the ANC and the Chamber of Mines met to discuss issues facing the industry, including the strikes. They agreed that socio-economic conditions of mineworkers and people living around mines needed to be improved.

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