Amcu’s strike stamina questioned

Commentators say Amcu’s massive-scale strike and high demands could damage the union.

FILE: Amcu members march at the one year anniversary of the Marikana shooting, 16 August 2012. Picture: Gia Nocolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)'s ability to maintain a major platinum sector strike starting this week is under scrutiny with experts and other groups concerned about rifts within the union and widespread job losses.

The mining union has increased in prominence in recent months, with a majority recognition agreement signed at Lonmin last year among its main achievements.

More than a 100,000 workers belonging to Amcu are expected to down tools at a number of platinum mines from Thursday, leaving the Finance Minister and Solidarity, among others, extremely concerned for the industry as a whole.

But editor at David McKay says Amcu itself should be worried, as the mining companies have had a long time to prepare for this industrial action.

"Platinum producers have had about six to eight weeks to build up an inventory. They can sit out a strike for a meaningful amount of time [while] anything beyond two weeks for Amcu starts to get hairy for them."

He says Amcu could also see rifts forming between members and other unions, with the entire concept of collective bargaining facing major challenges.

Emerging markets economist at Nomura Peter Attard Montalto agrees that a prolonged strike could undermine Amcu, saying its demands are too excessive.

"They can probably last it out a week, maybe even two, but it's going to be hard for them to keep things together. And, of course, the goal they set themselves of R12,500 is so big that they are likely to be frustrated in that regard."

Both commentators agree that Thursday's strike could be the start of major changes in the mining sector.

At the same time, the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp) says miners are concerned about losing their jobs.

With workers downing tools at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, some members are concerned that Amcu will not be able to attain the R12,500 demand.

These concerns have begun causing tensions within Amcu and Wasp's Mametlwe Sebei says while they fully support the strike, they have also had to take the workers' concerns into account.

He says many of the workers being asked to join the strike have already been retrenched and are now just fulfilling the remainder of their contracts.

They need to know, he says, whether there would even be a benefit for them in joining the action.

To listen to 567 CapeTalk/Talk Radio 702's Bruce Whitfield's full interviews with McKay and Attard, click here.