Mining pact won’t solve S.Africa’s conflict

Analysts see no end in sight for conflict in the South African mining industry.

Many say a mining pact by the government won’t stop strikes or assuage wage negotiation.

Largest labour group at the world’s three biggest platinum mines, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, declined to sign a deal yesterday, Reuters reported.

“Even if AMCU signs on later, the pact do little to resolve the turf war between rival unions or moderate wage demands, and labour unrest remains likely during upcoming negotiations over recognition and wages,” senior Africa analyst at Eurasia Group Mark Rosenberg wrote in a note to clients.

Constant strikes, wage negotiations and violence led President Jacob Zuma to assign Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe the task of mediator between unions and companies.

Police shot and killed 34 protesting platinum miners in one day in South Africa last year

But AMCU leaders did not sign the deal at yesterday’s meeting in Pretoria while other labour organisations, mining companies, and government departments signed the deal.

“We’re leaving,” AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa said yesterday when the union was asked to sign the deal.

“There’s a high probability we’re going to see strikes across the mining sector simply because the guys want money and the operators can’t afford to give it,” London-based mining analyst at Peel Hunt LLP Maurice Mason said.

Up to 4000 mineworkers engaged in a sit-in strike at an Anglo American Platinum mine last month. They were protesting against the suspension of four union leaders.

Protests against wages followed, with AMCU demanding a 100 per cent rise in sectoral wages as annual wage negotiations approached.

The AMCU protested against the sacking of about 1000 members at GlencoreXstrata’s South African chrome mines and job cuts at the Vaal River operations of AngloGold Ashanti this year, according to spokesman for the rival National Union of Mineworkers.  

The AMCU also protested against the NUM’s Labour Court application on the legitimacy of membership forms at Lonmin and asked for discussions with members on the deal, he said.

“They’ve got issues but they’re raising them at the wrong platform,” Seshoka said.

According to a statement, yesterday’s deal is compiled in a manner where all sides can work together to bring peace to mines.

The “government will act decisively to enforce the rule of law, maintain peace during strikes and other protests relating to labour disputes, ensure protection of life, property and the advancement of the rights of all,” it said.

All unions including AMCU and the largest mine operators previously consented to signing the pact, which was mediated by mines minister Susan Shabangu in February and March. But this also failed.

“Failure is not an option as this will accelerate the creeping destruction of one of South Africa’s most important industries and inhibit the investment support that the country so urgently needs,” CEO of the Chamber of Mines Bheki Sibiya wrote in the Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper.

The AMCU have asked for time to discuss with its members, Motlanthe said.

“They have nothing against the framework,” Motlanthe said about the AMCU.

“It is theirs as much as it is ours. They had no preconditions. Investors are not interested in this document; they’re interested in a stable mining industry.”

More than half of South Africa’s gold and platinum operations are under loss, Sibiya said.

Precious metal prices are falling and costs are increasing, putting pressure on South Africa’s gold and platinum producers. Labour unions are insisting on double wages for entry-level miners from producers.

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