Most of the strikers at world number three platinum producer Lonmin want to return to work amid a crippling walkout now in its third month, the firm’s CEO claimed Thursday.
“Most workers say they want to come back to work,” said Ben Magara, chief executive of the firm, which made world news in 2012 when police gunned down 34 strikers in one day at its Marikana mine.
Over 80,000 workers downed tools across South Africa’s platinum industry on January 23, holding out for a doubling of their entry-level salary to R12,500 ($1,170) a month.
Platinum firms have offered annual increases of nine-percent, and while union managers stick to their guns, Lonmin workers want to go back underground, Magara told a news conference in Johannesburg.
The firm conducted surveys via text messages and automated voice messages (AVM) with 20,000 of their 23,000 strikers.
In replies to text messages 6,500 wanted to end the strike with the firm’s current wage offer, while 67% of respondents in the AVM survey indicated the same, according to Lonmin.
“What we are seeing is mounting pressure from our employees to come back to work,” said Magara.
Radical worker group the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) gained a wide following with the R12,500 salary rallying cry in the wake of the August 2012 shooting at Marikana.
During mediated wage talks the union has said increases could be stacked over four years until employers reach the target, but Magara said the 30 percent-yearly increase until then is impossible.
“This 30% is not affordable and is not going to happen.”
An entry-level Lonmin worker earns R5,713 ($783) basic salary a month, but extra allowances and benefits push the package to R9,790 ($917), according to the firm.
Intermittent wage strikes have plagued the platinum industry since 2011, in a country that holds around 80% of the world’s known reserves.
Top global producers Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin, have been adamant AMCU’s demands are unrealistic and unaffordable.