Strike supporters: Cheap labour is over

A miners' support committee says society is widely in agreement with the platinum strike.

A miner’s support committee says society is widely in agreement with the platinum strike. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng Miners' Strike Support Committee says it's received overwhelming backing from all sectors of society in favour of the striking miners on the platinum belt.

The group says the sentiment proves the time for using cheap labour in South Africa has come to an end.

Around 70,000 members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union ( Amcu) downed tools in January at three of the world's largest platinum producers - Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum(Amplats) - demanding a basic wage of R12,500 per month.

The companies say they are simply unable to meet the demands and the impasse has caused the strike to become the longest and costliest in South Africa's mining history.

"We have exhausted all of our financial means," Impala spokesperson Johan Theron told Reuters today. "We have nothing more to give to bridge the gap between us and Amcu."

Further, analysts have grown increasingly concerned by its effects on the broader economy, with the first quarter's GDP contraction widely seen as a direct result.

But the support committee,which has also been behind the delivery of food parcels to families affected by the strike, says the platinum miners' demands are widely supported in society.

The committee held a picket outside the Chamber of Mines and Amplats in downtown Johannesburg earlier today, appealing to mine bosses in the North West to meet the union's demand.

Committee spokesperson Trevor Ngwane says they want to raise awareness about the plight of the miners.

He also accused company bosses of exploitation.

"The companies must pay workers a living wage and they must stop making super profits at the expense of poor, working class people," he said.

"The time for cheap labour is finished in South Africa."

Meanwhile, talks between the union and companies broke down again yesterday despite a highly-anticipated intervention by new Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi.

The minister spent his last day at the negotiating table yesterday and now says the union and mine bosses will have to resolve the issue through the Labour Court.

However, admitting that the situation is grave, he said, "I pray for the companies, for the unions and, more importantly, the people who will be affected by job losses."

Ramatlhodi said his ministry would now propose amendments to the Labour Relations Act in a bid to give government the power to end the strike if an agreement could not be reached.