Members of South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) will on Thursday begin meetings to decide on pay demands for platinum companies as wage talks loom, a spokesman said on Monday.
Manzini Zungu said the union’s branches would put forward their wage demands which would be consolidated at national level ahead of talks with Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
The existing two-year wage deal between the companies and unions expires at the end of next month.
Platinum companies are still reeling from the effects of a record five-month strike in 2014 led by AMCU – the biggest union in the sector – when it sought a more than doubling in wages to 12,500 rand ($800). In the end, the workers settled for raises of around 20 percent annually.
The lengthy strike, pay increases and low commodity prices forced firms to cut thousands of jobs, sell mines and delay projects. Amplats sold off its Rustenberg mines to Sibanye Gold to focus more on its mechanised mines.
The mining firms have said that unaffordable increases could trigger job losses which are a thorny issue in South Africa, which holds local polls in August and where unemployment reached its highest level on record in the first quarter.
Lonmin’s CEO Ben Magara said he did not anticipate further job cuts for now, but added conditions may change.
Zungu however said companies could not use the threat of job cuts to intimidate workers from asking for salary increases.
“In wage talks, we are going to negotiate for our members fully aware of the situation and knowing that the threat of job cuts is a lifetime threat that doesn’t go away,” Zungu said.
“Our members are just looking for a living wage so that they can own houses and take kids to university.”
The National Union of Mineworkers, the second biggest union in the sector, said it had not yet started on the process to set wage demands for its members.
($1 = 15.6015 rand)
(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala and Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia)