Platinum Wage Negotiations

As AMCU, we have now completed our comprehensive mandating process building up to the upcoming wage negotiations on the Platinum Belt. As the majority trade union in Platinum, we are ready!

As a genuine trade union, AMCU remains committed to working with the mandate of our members, in our quest for social justice and economic emancipation.

We are not like some other yellow unions, where leaders make decisions in in the middle of the night without a mandate and conclude deals with managers in boardrooms and restaurants. Our decisions are made at the Mass Meeting, and our members determine what we demand and what we achieve!

We started in May month with a series of Mass Meetings at the various Platinum AMCU Branches. We listened to the challenges faced by workers. We saw their hardship. We took their mandate to form our demands for submission to the bosses.

On 4 June 2019 we conducted our customary Platinum Collective Bargaining Conference at the CSIR in Pretoria. All our leaders from the Platinum Branches were in attendance, as well as our regional and national negotiators and leadership. We invited the renowned economist, Dr Dick Forslund to brief us on the market trends in Platinum, as well as the inflationary attacks on the livelihood of workers.

Dr Forslund’s research confirmed that our demands are realistic and that our signature demand of R12 500 has been eroded by inflation. He worked with a very conservative formula of an average of 4,5% inflation over the past years since 2012. You will remember that our R12 500 demand was born in 2012 in the shadow of the Marikana Massacre.

We are proud to officially announce that AMCU’s new demand for a living wage is R17 000 per month.

We believe that R17 000 is the minimum amount that a worker needs as a basic salary. It is a small price for the hard work and daily risks to life and limb our members face.

After Dr Forslund’s presentation, our Branches engaged and deliberated in order to consolidate their demands to a single AMCU mandate for Platinum.

Earlier this week, from Monday to yesterday, we conducted a series of Central Mass Meetings at all the Platinum mining houses in order to confirm this consolidated mandate. We are now ready to engage with the employers!

Current trends in the Platinum Sector

We are glad to learn that the Platinum Sector in South Africa is making massive profits. However, the in South Africa we have become used to high profits contrasted by a declining wage share of these hyper profits. The rich bosses get richer and the poor workers get poorer!

This is one of the reasons that we have seen a decline in the South African economy of 3,2% in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the last quarter of 2018. AMCU believes in a wage-led economy, where workers earning a living wage can spend their hard-earned money and boost the local economy.

The main problem in our country remains economic inequality which results in poverty. Apart from the so-called “working poor”, who work for slave wages set in place during colonialism and apartheid, almost half of South Africans don’t have a job.

While the official unemployment stands on 27,6%, the biggest problem is that our youth don’t get jobs. Analysts say that 55,5% of youth are unemployed. This is a ticking time-bomb indeed.
AMCU maintains that the only way to address unemployment is to transform our economy. We need to move away from an exploitative economy, where rich multinationals loot our country’s wealth of raw materials. We need to industrialise. We need to beneficiate. We need to manufacture and export! Like many have said, Africa is not poor, she is poorly managed!

Despite the first quarter’s decline in economic growth, it is interesting to note that the Platinum Companies have been comfortably profitable since 2017. This is largely due to the commodity appreciation in the Platinum Group Metals also known as PGM.

Since 2016, the price of rhodium has risen by 300% and the price of palladium by 150%. As at February 2019, rhodium was trading at $2 645 per ounce, palladium at $1 488 per ounce and iridium at a healthy $1 460 per ounce.

The SA Operation PGM basket price in the first quarter of 2019 appreciated from $1 073 per ounce in 2018 to $1 221 per ounce. This is a substantial increase of 13.73%!

Even better, the PGM basket price of the Rand per 4E (Platinum, Palladium, Rhodium and Gold) ounce increased from R12 839 to R17 104 in in the first quarter of 2019. This is a 33.21% increase!
The South African PGM adjusted earnings for the first quarter of 2019 showed a 33.22% increase from R258.3 million in 2018 to R353 million in 2019.

We are really glad that it is going so well with Platinum, and it is high time that the bosses share their hyper profits with the workers who toil every day!

We also clearly remember how Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman bragged, during our Five Month Strike in Gold, that he was making handsome profits in Platinum. Now it is the time to share! Mr Froneman also said that he raised almost R2 billion in order to fight AMCU during the Platinum negotiations. We call on him to rather use this money to improve the lives of his employees who are our members.

AMCU in the Platinum Sector

Since AMCU entered the Platinum Sector, the lives of workers have improved drastically. Workers have felt real change in their lives. Gone are the days of yellow unions who sell out the workers to management! AMCU will fight for social justice and economic emancipation of the working class.

Marikana Massacre. On 16 August 2012, we saw the brutal killing of 34 of our comrades by the State. Capital bought the State to oppose the quest for economic emancipation of the workers. Since the Marikana Massacre, AMCU has spared no expense to defend and support the families of our fallen comrades. We have contributed to funerals and attended in person. We have invested heavily in capacity-building programmes and we have built state-of-the-art houses for the families of the victims.

We have remained committed and our National Office-Bearers have personally attended Shaft Steward Council meetings and attended to members’ issues on a daily basis. We have ensured that we convene regular meetings, conferences and congresses. AMCU became involved in Platinum wages after the Marikana Massacre in 2012, and more specifically in 2013 and 2014 with the Five Month Platinum Strike.

Back in 2012, the lowest earning worker at Platinum was earning around R4000 per month. Taken the general inflation-related wage increases as taken by the NUM (averaging 6%), this would have meant that this worker would now only get R5674,08 per month! But, thanks to AMCU, these workers now earn more than our initial target of R12 500 per month. AMCU has brought real change.

The so-called “merger” between Sibanye-Stillwater and Lonmin

On 13 March 2018 Sibanye-Stillwater applied to merge with Lonmin, indicating that it hoped the transaction would be approved by end of May 2018. We have always said that this is not a merger – it is an incorporation. Lonmin is being swallowed by Sibanye!

AMCU formally indicated its intention to participate in the merger proceedings on 20 March 2018, after which it attended engagements with the Competition Commission and made submissions in opposition to the merger. The Commission finalized its merger report in September 2018, and the matter was set down for hearing in early October 2018. However, given the sheer size of the record filed by the merging parties (in excess of 160 000 pages) the matter was postponed to 12-14 November 2018. AMCU then presented our arguments before the Tribunal regarding the proposed transaction and the impact of the transaction.

In addition to the conditions proposed by the Commission and merging parties, the Tribunal (after hearing argument from AMCU) included a moratorium on the proposed retrenchments for a period of six months. There were also certain short-term projects that would reduce job losses and may well negate certain losses should the market prove favourable.

The Tribunal Order was given on 21 November 2018 and the Tribunal Judgment was given on 13 December 2018. We appealed and applied to suspend the operation of the merger pending finalisation of the appeal.

We were successful and the appeal was argued on 2 April 2019.

The Appeal Court handed down judgment on 17 May 2019, that the merger will proceed but with the 6-month moratorium on retrenchments being upheld.

This means that AMCU’s opposition managed to delay the merger by more than a year, in fact by 13 months. If one takes the average income of a worker at Lonmin to be R14 000 for around 27 000 workers, this calculates to a total of R4 914 000 000 (almost R5 billion) worth in salaries.

We have fought the good fight.

We have been to the highest court. It has cost us around R3 million with absolutely no support from Government. In fact, government was pro-merger from the start, even though they knew that we will lose thousands of jobs. Thousands of workers could have been gone last year already, but we are all still here!

The merger was implemented from effect of 10 June 2019 and there will now be a handover period between the companies. AMCU will ensure that the rights of our members remain intact during the process.

Assassination of our leaders

Since AMCU’s involvement in the Platinum Sector, we have been under attack. Since 2012 we have been the target of many. The fact of the matter is that our government, the State, has been co-opted by Capital. Very similar to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, big business has declared war on genuine trade unions like AMCU.

Just like former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did her best to crush the unions, the tripartite alliance is doing its utmost to ensure that the power of labour is weakened.
COSATU and the NUM are the hand-puppets of capitalists in the ANC who hold shares in all the major companies in South Africa.

They will stop at nothing to crush AMCU…

Our leaders have been assassinated, and from the beginning the media and our detractors tried their best to blame AMCU for the violence.

The propaganda against AMCU has been a constant feature since 2012.

However, we pursued the matter and got expert investigators like Paul O’Sullivan to help us catch these criminals. We left no stone unturned. They were caught and sentenced, some to life in prison!

In court the truth came out: The killers were sponsored by NUM and their expensive legal teams were paid by NUM!

The threat of deregistration

Just after we managed to settle the five-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations, on 23 April 2019 AMCU received a notice from the Registrar of Labour Relations. The notice indicated the Registrar’s intention to cancel our registration as a trade union. We are more convinced than ever that this is a political attack on AMCU for being a genuine trade union.

Still, we are glad to report that, just yesterday, we hand-delivered our written submissions to the Registrar in Pretoria. We tabled our arguments and presented evidence of our compliance with our constitution.

We trust that the Registrar will be convinced by the comprehensive evidence we presented, and that the Department will let us continue with the preparations for our National Congress to be held on 18, 19 and 20 September 2019.

We are looking forward to our deliberations to take our organisation into the next five years and beyond.

In the meantime, AMCU will continue its campaign of social justice and economic emancipation of the working class. We are ready for the Platinum wage negotiations, and we are convinced that we will be successful in improving the lives of our members. AMCU is a genuine trade union and we will remain a genuine trade union.