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Amcu shifts focus to share ownership

Joseph Mathunjwa says shares need to be transferred to mineworkers.

Amcu members sing and dance at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg ahead of the briefing by union leader Joseph Mathunjwa on 23 June 2014. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - After securing the highest ever settlement in a South African mining strike, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is now shifting its focus to ownership of the mines, saying shares need to be transferred to workers.

The union's president Joseph Mathunjwa says the employee share option at platinum mining houses needs to be revisited because the scheme has only benefitted a select few.

Mathunjwa says re-adjusting the plan will give workers a bigger stake in the companies.

"We need to re-engineer the entire employee share option plan. I believe that the shares that have been given to individuals should be given to the workers."

His comments follow yesterday's announcement that the crippling five-month long platinum strike has come to an end.

Mathunjwa made the announcement at a rally attended by around 40,000 miners at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in the North West where Amcu members overwhelmingly voiced their support for the latest wage offers from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.

An agreement between Amcu and Lonim, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum is expected to be signed shortly.

Amcu members clad in the union's signature green T-shirts have started arriving for the private signing ceremony of the wage agreement.

Barricades have been set up at the entrance of Lonmin's offices and a section of the street has also been cordoned off.

The companies are due to elaborate on the agreement during a press briefing scheduled for later this afternoon.

Amcu will hold a separate briefing to discuss the settlement as well as other issues such as its attempted strike in the gold sector.

The platinum miners had embarked on a work stoppage in January for higher wages and have now agreed to settle for a minimum R1,000 salary increase.

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

The strike cost the industry over R23.4 billion in lost earnings.

It was also mentioned by ratings agency Standard & Poor's as one of the reasons South Africa's credit rating was downgraded.

Mathunjwa, who was praised by mineworkers on Monday for leading the strike, said the settlement should be celebrated across industries.

"Everyone should be joyful that at the end of the day the settlement agreement was reached and was welcomed by an overwhelming majority of our members."

Amcu has secured an increase of at least R2,000 extra for all their members for the next six months due to the backdates agreement.

Watch: Mine strike a victory for the working class?

FURTHER BATTLES

Although thousands celebrated after the union presented its three-year wage hike, many economists have warned their victory may be short lived as restructuring, job cuts and possible amendments to the Labour Relations Act are now on the cards.

Mathunjwa says platinum mineworkers should celebrate his union's settlement but he has expressed concerns about proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act, which gives government the power to forcefully end strikes.

"We have to fight it because if you change those laws you are simply challenging the Constitution of our country."

Mathunjwa says the union is also wary of looming restructuring at mines.

"That's a challenge that we've got. But why can't we celebrate what we have right now?"

Mineworkers are expected back at work on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, there are warnings it will take more than five years for mines to recover financially from the effects of the strike.

Labour economist Loan Sharpe says there's little to celebrate.

"This is an outrageous situation. It should have been resolved through the courts. This is a clear case where judicial activism could permanently change and improve our labour relations."

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