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Gordhan: Amcu strike will hurt SA economy

The Finance Minister says South Africa can’t afford another major strike while Amcu prepares major action.

Amcu has issued strike notices to companies in both the platinum and gold sectors. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - As Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan warns of dire consequences for the economy if major strikes in the mining sector go ahead, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is preparing for hundreds of thousands of its workers to down tools from Thursday.

Amcu has issued strike notices to companies in both the platinum and gold sectors.

The Chamber of Mines has warned that Amcu's plan to embark on strikes this week will have a devastating effect on the gold sector as the industry remains gripped by financial challenges.

The chamber has indicated it will approach the Labour Court to obtain an interdict against the planned industrial unrest.

On the platinum front Amcu is demanding a monthly salary of R12,500 but employers say they cannot afford the amount, while Minister Gordhan says South Africa's ailing economy cannot afford more labour unrest.

"The platinum industry needs to seriously get around the table," Gordhan told SAFM in an interview on Monday.

"We can least afford another round of strikes that will act as a destabilisation to the platinum sector which has had increasing difficulties over the last 18 months."

Earlier this month, Moody's noted weakening productivity and strike-related business losses in South Africa as one of its greatest barriers to cheap credit.

"The economy has never fully recovered its momentum following the global recession in 2009, partly due to domestic political and economic turbulence ignited by violent labour unrest and the associated uncertainty that it has created," it said.

While the Chamber of Mines is hopeful that its interdict will prevent Amcu from at least stalling the gold sector, the platinum sector will still see more than 100,000 miners from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin start striking on Thursday.

But Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa says his union does not intend to cripple the platinum sector this week.

He says they simply had to use industrial action as the last resort.

"This is not the intention but it's how the employers pushed the workers into that corner. We've been negotiating with these mining houses even up to December. We are not crippling the economy, we are exercising our right."

Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa says the union has not yet has a response from employers.

"We haven't heard anything from them, but we are waiting for them. If they call us we will avail ourselves to see what they have to offer."

At the same time, North West Premier Thandi Modise has urged Amcu to respect the rights of non-striking workers when it embarks on its strike.

"Amcu is exercising its constitutional right to strike but at the same time the premier wishes that Amcu will ensure that the rights of non-striking workers are respected and that violence is avoided at all costs," her spokesperson Lesiba Kgwele says.