Describing mine negotiators as “resisting change” and “displaying downright hostility”, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa yesterday announced that his union has reached a deadlock at the protracted wage negotiations in the country’s gold mining sector – with the stalemate now referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Mathunjwa – whose union is the second largest in the gold mining sector – said he was, however, “hopeful that the negotiators will change their approach when we have a third-party involvement” during the conciliation process, starting today.
Other unions participating in the wage talks with gold producers AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye-Stillwater, Harmony Gold and Village Main Reef are the National Union of Mineworkers (Num), United Association of South Africa (UASA) and Solidarity.
Reflecting on the talks, Mathunjwa said: “As we commenced with the gold wage negotiations with AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye-Stillwater and Village Main Reef, we experienced some setbacks.
“In gold, we are still faced by arrogant negotiators and their behaviour that often borders on stubbornness and downright hostility.
“This stubborn behaviour must be interpreted as resistance to change and wage equality. This is to maintain the unfair disparities left in the wake of apartheid and capitalism.
“This hostility hinders progress and it tends to make wage negotiations very difficult and time-consuming.
“The approach of some negotiators has led to lack of progress with three of the employers. They are Harmony Gold, Sibanye-Stillwater and Village Main Reef.”
Mathunjwa has described engagement with AngloGold Ashanti as “more progressive”.
He said the mining company was “making tangible offers which seek to meet our demands”.
AngloGold Ashanti is offering a three-year agreement. Its last offer for categories four and eight, stands at an increase of R800 during the first year, R900 in the second and R1000 in the third year.
It is also offering a living-out allowance of R100 for each of the three years.
Miners, artisans and officials stand to gain a 6% increase in the first year, 6.05% in the second and 6% in the third year.
Amcu is demanding a R12 500 basic minimum salary and a R4 000 living-out allowance, which Mathunjwa said was “against a backdrop of ever-increasing cost of living”.
South Africa, said Mathunjwa, “has been hit by a self-inflicted recession and poor workers will eventually have to bear the brunt”.
He added: “A wage-led economy sees economic growth created by the increased spending power of workers, while they are able to better their living conditions and future prospects.”
He warned that failure of the conciliation process would lead to a strike – “always our last resort”.
“However, we are prepared to engage in a disciplined and focused industrial action to drive home our point, if there is lack of understanding,” said Mathunjwa.
Mine producers’ chief negotiator Motsamai Motlhamme has implored parties to reach an agreement that did not compromise the viability of the industry “already in distress”.