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Platinum miners reconsidering backdating offer

Amcu over-playing its hand – expert.

PRETORIA – Platinum miners Implats, Amplats and Lonmin are reconsidering back-dating their offer to striking mineworkers to July 1 2013.

The employers said in a message to their employees and Amcu posted on the website www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za the current offer “remains on the table, for now.” They added: “The longer the strike continues, the less affordable this offer becomes.”

The employers called on the employees and Amcu to come to the table with realistic and affordable demands. “Don’t kill the industry that is so important to our communities and country,” they said.

This follows after Amcu accepted an agreement “in principle” last week, only to return with a further list of demands that employers say would cost them a further R1 billion.

The parties are still engaging each other, although the mining houses have said publicly the new demands are unaffordable.

Chris Jacobs, labour consultant at OIM International is of the opinion that Amcu has over-played its hand.

He told Moneyweb that many mineworkers have returned from their homes in the Eastern Cape and neighbouring countries to the Rustenburg-area where the mines are situated. They had high expectations that the strike was going to end and are hungry and broke.

He said if an agreement is not reached quickly these workers can be expected to return to work anyway. The employers have already indicated that increasing numbers of workers are doing exactly that.

Jacobs said this may leave employers little choice but to implement the agreement that was accepted “in principle”. Amcu may react by trying to prevent the miners from returning to work through increased intimidation which will increase volatility, he said.

Amcu can at this stage still accept the offer and claim symbolic victory, Jacobs said. If the union allows the opportunity to slip and agreement is not reached, there will be only losers, he said.

Jacobs said retrenchments are inevitable and employers won’t be able to accept the moratorium on retrenchments and restructuring Amcu demands.

He said the demand for a R3 000 bonus to return to work is ridiculous. A similar payment was made to end an unprotected strike at Eskom’s Medupi power station last year and if employers agree, it may become a new trend in strike negotiations going forward.

Amcu national treasurer Jimmy Gama told Moneyweb that Amcu is still engaging the employers. He said progress is being made, but in light of the engagement he wouldn’t comment on the employers’ statement that they cannot up their offer any further.

Gama doubted the allegations that workers are increasingly returning to work.

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