PLATINUM WAGE NEGOTIATIONS, SAFETY AND RETRENCHMENTS

PLATINUM WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

As AMCU, this is now the third time that we are negotiating wage increases for workers on the Platinum Belt. Over the past negotiations, we have been able to gradually improve the lives of workers by moving away from the inflation-related increases which they were subjected to.
This process was not always easy, and we had to sacrifice a lot during the Five-month Platinum Strike of 2013/2014. Still, we have been able to strengthen our mandate and consolidate our struggle for economic emancipation.

Our battle cry of the early years was for a living wage R12 500 per month to be paid to the lowest-earning worker. This year, at our Platinum Collective Bargaining Conference held on 4 June 2019, we agreed to adjust this figure for inflation to a new baseline of R17 000 per month.

We believe that R17 000 per month is a realistic and attainable target for a living wage for workers in our country. At the first rounds of Mass Meetings with our members, we were given the mandate to look at an increase of R1 500 per month, for every year of a three-year wage agreement. We also agreed to include broader issues related to conditions of service and health and safety.
As the majority trade union in Platinum, we are making good progress…

Status quo

This year’s negotiations with the different employers started on 9 July 2019, and after 3 months of negotiating, we have not reached an agreement with one of the employers yet.
The employers involved in these negotiations are Impala Platinum Holdings or Implats (including the Impala and Marula operations), Anglo American Platinum or Amplats (which comprises Tumela, Dishaba, Central Services, Mortimer Smelter, RBMR and Mototolo operations), as well as Sibanye-Stillwater SA Platinum (including the RPM and Lonmin operations).

While we are making good progress with Anglo and Impala, who have both crossed the R1 000 mark, Sibanye-Stillwater remains a stumbling block.

The first problem came when Sibanye-Stillwater insisted to have parallel engagements for its operations at Rustenburg Platinum Mine (or RPM, as we refer to it), and the operations formerly belonging to Lonmin.

The reason for this approach is quite simple: They are trying to isolate their different operations and avoid the principle of harmonisation and cross-subsidisation. This enabled them to insult former Lonmin workers by offering a measly R300 increase at the start.
We have now exhausted the internal dispute resolution mechanisms at all the companies, save for Impala, where we will still have a Mass Meeting this week to engage with members. We have referred mutual interest disputes to the CCMA, and we are positive that the CCMA will facilitate progress and resolution so that we may conclude these negotiations and get back to work.

SAFETY IN PLATINUM

As AMCU we have been generally pleased with the improvements in health and safety in Platinum over the past months. However, it seems that once again Sibanye-Stillwater is the stumbling block.
While Lonmin in the past months boasted a new record of numerous fatality-free shifts, Sibanye-Stillwater has already killed four (4) mineworkers since it swallowed Lonmin on 10 June 2019.
To add insult to injury, AMCU Safety Stewards were intimidated and disciplined for raising serious concerns regarding questionable telephonic concessions made by the DMR (Department of Mineral Resources) with Sibanye-Stillwater management.
AMCU leadership requested an urgent meeting with Sibanye-Stillwater management to discuss our concerns.

SIBANYE-LONMIN RETRENCHMENTS

Last week on 25 September 2019, we received a notice that Sibanye-Stillwater is commencing with consultations to retrench a possible 5 270 employees at its newly acquired Lonmin operations.
Members of the media will remember that AMCU opposed the so-called merger process from the start, and that the main focus of our opposition was exactly this – the mass retrenchment of workers.
Over the past days Sibanye-Stillwater spoke to the media, complaining of losses made, but these claims are less than factual. In fact, according to Lonmin’s 2018 Annual Report, Lonmin made a net profit of R68 billion year-on-year from 2017 to 2018.

During the first six (6) months of 2019, the Lonmin operations generated an unaudited $70 million. This proves that Lonmin was indeed profitable when Sibanye-Stillwater acquired it.
Even more compelling is that Lonmin’s headcount was already reduced with almost a quarter (21%) since 2014, which resulted in massive savings on expenses. The fact is that these job cuts has nothing to do with losses…

It is a known fact that Sibanye-Stillwater’s main reason for acquiring Lonmin was to get a processing plant. Lonmin has a fully integrated PGM processing complex, including smelting, base and precious metal refining facilities. This gives it a so-called “mine-to-market capability”. This will enable Sibanye-Stillwater to mine ore at its RPM and Kroondal operations, and then process at Lonmin before going to market.

AMCU has a fresh mandate to campaign for the amendment of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. It currently makes it too easy for employers to butcher the livelihoods of workers only for the sake of hyper profits. We demand that the LRA includes other socio-economic requirements as well, especially for these multinational mines and corporates.

We can simply not let the livelihoods of workers be sacrificed to sustain the luxurious lifestyles of mining bosses anymore. It has to stop!
The golden handshake paid by Sibanye-Stillwater to the former CEO is estimated at £1.45million (or R27,57 million), and the former CFO received an estimated £737 268 (or R14,52 million).
The total cash paid to Sibanye-Stillwater’s 2 Executive Directors last year amounted to more than R59 million.

They use clever tricks to loot the money and show less profits. From illicit financial flows to tax evasion, their new trick is to ensure that they pay out dividends directly before wage negotiations start. Then they can lie to us and tell us they don’t have money left to pay to the workers. This is theft! They are stealing from the workers!

Closure

As AMCU, we remain positive that the mining bosses will pay their workers a living wage and decent benefits. We will spare no resource in fighting unnecessary job cuts and finding alternative solutions to workers and their families losing their livelihoods.
AMCU is a genuine trade union and we will continue to strengthen our campaign for the economic emancipation of our members.

I thank you.
Joseph Mathunjwa
AMCU President

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