THE five-month platinum strike could end on Friday if workers accept a new offer which would see basic pay increase by R1,000 a month for the lowest paid.
The strongest sign of a deal is that this is the first time in two months that leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have taken an offer to workers for consideration.
A previous offer of an R800 a month increase was rejected by leaders who chose not to take it back to workers.
Lonmin, Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum announced that “in principle” undertakings were reached with the leadership of the Amcu in respect of wages and conditions of employment. Amcu would be discussing these with its members to seek a mandate to accept the offers which, if given, would bring to an end the 21-week long strike.
The potential agreement sought to create “a sustainable future for the three platinum companies for the benefit of all stakeholders and to afford employees the best possible increase under the current financial circumstances”.
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa and treasurer Jimmy Gama began reporting back at mass meetings at noon on Thursday. Workers who took to the podium both criticised and supported the offer.
Shop stewards from Amcu urged Mr Mathunjwa to sign a wage deal with the three major platinum firms at a dramatic mass rally crowning nearly five months of industrial action.
Cheers erupted from the crowd of thousands of miners as one senior union official took the microphone to declare: “Sign, Mathunjwa, sign. This union has worked. We want this money. We come from hardships. Amcu has worked. We can’t take kids to school.”
Amcu has a range of other meetings planned on Thursday with shop stewards and regional leaders.
The union has undertaken to reply to employers on the offer on Friday.
African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday the platinum wage strike must be resolved “now” rather than deal with its consequences such as a rating agency downgrade of the country.
Addressing the media in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Mantashe said the ruling party had real concerns that should the strike, which is now in its fifth month, continue the country would experience a second quarter of negative economic growth.
“The consequence of that (the negative growth rate) is that the ratings agencies will downgrade the country, it will increase our cost of borrowing and possibly impact the infrastructure growth programme,” he said.
Mr Mantashe reasserted previous claims made by him that “foreigners” were involved in driving the strike. He said this was part of the politicisation of the strike.
“Those foreigners, whom I will not name, have been there negotiating on behalf of Amcu, when it should have been the shop stewards involved in the wage bargaining negotiations.”
He then directed his ire at the involvement of the Economic Freedom Fighters being involved with the Amcu negotiations with the platinum mining houses, saying it was also part of the politicisation of the strike.
Mr Mantashe, who is a former secretary-general of the Cosatu affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers, said in the past an organisation called the Labour Research Service taught union leaders and shop stewards how to read company reports, how to calculate wage increases and what companies could afford, and how to negotiate with company executives.
“However, the Labour Research Service never came into negotiations with us…,” Mr Mantashe said.
His comment appeared to be taking a swipe at the Alternative Information Development Centre that is headed by Brian Ashley, however, he did not name the organisation or Mr Ashley specifically.
Mr Mantashe said the Amcu strike was being driven by four foreign nationals, but he refused to name them saying that if he did, he would be accused of being xenophobic.
* This article was amended to show that Brian Ashley is not a Canadian citizen, he is South African.