In 2012, mineworkers in the platinum belt went on a strike, marching against exploitation and oppression, demanding a living wage of R12 500.
August 16 2012 evokes iconic images of killed mine worker Mgcineni “Mambush” Noki, who in his green blanket advocated for a living wage and paid the ultimate price with his live and 33 other workers.
As AMCU we cannot take a bold step forward just to retreat many steps, as that is what we would be doing if we agreed to Ramaphosa’s minimum wage. This is the same Ramaphosa (at that time a leading mine magnate) who urged the police to intervene and put an end to the strike for a living wage.
He now serves the mine owners, agri-business and all other low wage sectors of the economy and unsurprisingly disregards the demand for a living wage and offers the crumbs of a so-called minimum wage.
A minimum wage of R3 500 is poverty, measly and miserable wage, which we reject with contempt. It is not only an insult to the working class and poor people of this country but also undermines the Constitution’s guarantee of dignity for all.
No leader that continues to represent the downtrodden and dispossessed can support this process. We are not surprised that COSATU, which has given up the pretense of being an independent, militant and democratic parliament of the working class a long time ago can collaborate with the class enemy. We hope that NACTU, when it finally consults its members will correct itself and reject the minimum wage deal, which is aimed at shoring up the ANC’s popular support.
As long as surplus labour is available at the mercy of capital, there is no bottom line when it comes to cheapening the costs of production and the value of human life. No matter how poorly paid workers are, they are not cheap enough for the captains of industry.
Accepting a minimum wage of R3500, is not only disparaging to people who work underground for 16 hours a day, but it will fly in the face of the 34 mineworkers who were massacred at the hands of the state and Lonmin in 2012.
AMCU has long-held the demand for a living wage. With a massive decline in the share of value in South Africa’s economy going to wages and with corporations compulsively posting their ill earned profits off-shore in tax havens, there can be no delay in implementing a living wage.
As the scandal with the banks that systematically colluded in the currency market shows, without state regulation, the corporate elite will continue to invent schemes to cheapen labour and make obscene profits. With South African mining companies’ CEOs earning, on average, 355 times more than the sector’s median earning, there is “no excuse” for mines not to provide their workers with living wages.
AMCU continues to struggle for a living wage and we stand in solidarity with all workers in this struggle, especially the heroic farm workers in the Western Cape. Our struggle for a living wage, is part of a struggle to free our nation from the clutches of the Chamber of Mines and their cohorts in government.
Without a living wage, our country will remain one of the most unequal in the world and consequently dependent on exports and thus in a constant race to the bottom. In this race to the bottom, declining wages and worsening living conditions destroys the economic basis for a sustainable economy.
Wages are not a cost on the economy, on the contrary it represents the lifeblood for South Africa and its future.
Down with a minimum wage of R3 500!
Forward to a living wage of R12 500!
Issued by Mr Joseph Mathunjwa