South African AMCU union seeks $1,145 monthly basic wage in pay talks

Joseph Mathunjwa. Image courtesy of AMCU’s Facebook page.

South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) will seek a monthly basic wage of 17,000 rand ($1,145) for its members when platinum pay talks get underway this month, its president said on Friday.

The world’s top platinum miners are bracing for a fresh round of negotiations with South African workers as a rise in profits is likely to provoke higher wage demands from labour unions, including the militant AMCU.

“We believe that 17,000 rand is the minimum amount that a worker needs as a basic salary”

AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa

AMCU, the majority union in the platinum sector, has since 2012 argued for a living wage of 12,500 rand for its members but now says that is not enough due to inflation.

“We believe that 17,000 rand is the minimum amount that a worker needs as a basic salary,” AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told a news briefing.

“It is a small price for the hard work and daily risks to life and limb our members face.”

The lowest paid worker in the platinum sector currently earns around 11,000 rand.

Higher prices for palladium and rhodium and a weaker rand currency have boosted profits at miners such as Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Sibanye-Stillwater – now combined with Lonmin – and Impala Platinum after several years of losses.

This has emboldened AMCU, which in April ended a five-month strike at Sibanye’s gold operations.

“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,” Mathunjwa said.

The union also said it had handed written submissions to the labour registrar on Thursday following the registrar’s accusation that it has not complied with the constitution and had violated its own rules by not holding a national congress.

In April, South Africa’s labour registrar said in the government gazette he intended to cancel the registration of AMCU because the trade union was “not a genuine trade union as envisaged in the (Labour Relations) Act”.

If the AMCU is de-registered, it would not be able to continue operating, potentially sparking unrest in mining communities.

“We are more convinced than ever that this is a political attack on AMCU for being a genuine trade union,” Mathunjwa said.

($1 = 14.8414 rand)

(By Tanisha Heiberg and Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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