'Platinum strike in Labour Court's hands'

Ngaoko Ramatlhodi has failed to secure a solution to the platinum sector strike.

The platinum sector strike is now in its fifth month. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi says the fate of the five-month long platinum strike is now in the hands of the Labour Court after his two-week ministerial mediation failed to yield results.

Ramatlhodi spent his final day mediating the talks yesterday, failing to secure a solution to the impasse.

Around 70,000 workers belonging to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) downed tools at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum in January, demanding a basic wage of R12,500 a month.

The action has halted mines that normally account for 40 percent of global platinum output and has hit the country's overall GDP, pushing it into contraction in the first quarter of the year.

Upon taking up his new position last month, Ramatlhodi vowed to end the mining sector's longest-ever strike, quickly establishing a task team and bringing together representatives from government, Amcu and the mining bosses.

He reportedly managed to narrow down the key issues but, over the weekend, announced that 9 June would be his last day at the negotiating table.

The minister has said he left the parties closer than ever to reaching a settlement.

But he admitted that the probability of mine shafts being placed on long-term maintenance and care has grown and job losses are imminent.

"I pray for the companies, for the unions and, more importantly, the people who will be affected by job losses. The situation is grave."

He 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.

ADVERSE EFFECT ON EXPORTS

Meanwhile, Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus says while the platinum sector strike has already had an impact on economic growth, this hasn't yet been fully reflected in export data.

Marcus warned that the longer the strike continued, the sooner its adverse effect on exports would be felt.

She said a decline in platinum exports had had a serious effect on the economy at a time when the mining sector should be responding positively to the depreciating rand.

Marcus said it was imperative that the mining sector went back to work and the manufacturing sector stayed at work in order to retain jobs.

Marcus added the domestic economy was facing enormous headwinds, many of which were within the country's ability to resolve.

The governor said high on the list was the currently debilitating labour relations environment and that it was up to all parties to resolve these issues.

She argued instead of focusing on whether or not the country was entering a recession, we should be striving to restore the economy.