Platinum strike: Judge lauded for intervention

Amcu and platinum firms agreed to re-enter wage talks under mediation of the Labour Court.

Amcu members strike in Marikana on 14 May 2014. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - A Johannesburg Labour Court judge has been praised for her efforts in persuading the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and platinum producers to resume wage talks.

Around 70,000 members of the union have been on strike at Lonmin Platinum, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum for 17 weeks, demanding a basic salary of R12,500 a month.

After talks between CEOs and the union's leaders failed a new agreement was reached yesterday afternoon.

The fresh talks are set to take place over the next three days behind closed doors.

The intervention comes after numerous attempts by mining houses and union leadership failed to produce any results.

All parties were at court yesterday over an urgent interdict against Lonmin for communicating with workers directly via SMS and bypassing the union.

The union believes the messages were fuelling tensions between workers.

But during closed door proceedings, Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker suggested mediated wage talks aimed at resolving the bigger issue, namely the four-month long crippling strike.

Mining analyst Peter Major says this was an impressive move.

"Because they were smart enough to go to a woman judge, she immediately saw the big picture instead of trying to rule on whether employers can send SMSs to employees."

At the same time, Amcu has welcomed the Labour Court's decision to mediate further talks with platinum producers.

The union's Jimmy Gama says they're happy with the new agreement.

"The parties have agreed to give the judge an opportunity to mediate in terms of the wage issues and as a result of that any other issues were put on hold."

Mining companies say they have a renewed sense of commitment to end the protracted wage strike.

Speaking on behalf of all three mining houses, Lonmin's executive vice-president for human resources Abey Kgotle said they were hopeful the end was in sight.

"The sole purpose of this mediation process will be to try and assist the parties to arrive at a settlement of the dispute. We remain committed to ongoing dialogue with Amcu and other stakeholders to find a way to end the strike."