Although news reports late last week optimistically announced a final settlement in the negotiations to end the strike that started on January 23, strike leaders stepped back from this.
The Association of Miners and Construction Union general secretary Joseph Mathunjwa told SABC radio on Saturday: “”They are in principle in agreement. There are, however, a few issues the members raised.
“We hope these issues will be resolved. We are in the process of formulating all the responses from the members; and we will most likely meet with the employers on Saturday or Sunday to give them feedback,” said Mathunjwa.
Talks were ongoing at the time of going to press, but a breakthrough was expected.
Lonmin said the earliest mines would open would be at the beginning of next month: “Our thinking is that in the next week people will return, then giving it another week or two for medical checks on workers. July 1 is the earliest to begin mining,” Sue Vey, a spokesperson for Lonmin, said.
Hopes were high on Thursday that an end to the five month long platinum strike was in sight when employers Implats, Lonmin and Anglo Platinum (Amplats) announced that an “in principle” agreement has been reached.
It seemed that all Mathunjwa had to do was present it to his members to accept it.
Implats said the offer included an annual increase of R1 000 a month in basic pay for A- and B- band employees for two years and thereafter R950.
But Mathunjwa said, while meeting Lonmin members at Wonderkop stadium near Rustenburg a few hours later, the basic wage increase was from R800 to R850 and workers were still insisting on R1 000.
He also said 235 essential services workers who have been dismissed at Lonmin must be re-instated; there has to be a moratorium on retrenchments; an inflation-linked increase in the housing allowance was demanded and the agreement should be implemented over three years.
On Friday morning he told Talk Radio 702 the duration of the agreement was the only outstanding issue.
Copies of the deal from the employers clearly state the increase is R1 000 a month. Amplats and Implats say it will be paid in the first two years of the agreement, decreasing to R950 a month for the next three years.
Lonmin offers R1 000 per month until a basic salary of R12 500 has been reached and thereafter an annual increase of 7.5%.
A source close to the process said Mathunjwa was most probably “keeping something back”, just to emerge later as a hero, seemingly getting workers what they demanded.
The source said employers may have anticipated this and adjusted their strategies accordingly. He was still optimistic a settlement might be reached, although there were a few more issues outstanding at Lonmin than at the other two mines.