It looked like a clash of titans, with Joseph Mathunjwa, the charismatic chairman of Amcu, going up against Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman, whose payout of R300 million, mostly in shares, had the unions boiling.
In the end, it seems Mathunjwa – who played a leading role in the tragic events of Marikana a decade ago and led a five-month platinum strike in 2014 – blinked, and the mediated talks ended with a groan instead of a bang. The result is a five-year wage agreement similar to those reached by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum (Implats).
“This agreement with Amcu follows previous agreements reached with the National Union of Miners (NUM) and Uasa on September 30, 2022 and marks the conclusion of the wage negotiation processes in the Marikana and Rustenburg operations,” Sibanye said in a statement. Friday.
“The final agreement is consistent with the previous five-year inflation-linked offer, with the first three years still including fixed and average annual wage increases of 6% and more for employees in the bargaining unit, but with increases for years four and five. fixed at R1,300 (or 6%) in the fourth year and at R1,400 (or 6%) in the fifth year, relative to the CPI-linked variable increases of the previous offer. Miners and artisans will receive average annual wage increases of 6% per year for each of the five years,” Sibanye said.
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With the conclusion of the Sibanye pay deal, things have never looked more stable in South Africa’s turbulent platinum group metals (PGM) sector, at least on the labor front. Almost all production in South Africa, by far the world’s largest producer of PGMs, is locked into five-year wage agreements at a time when the sector is fairly profitable.
Against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and food and fuel inflation that is eroding the incomes of struggling working-class households, it also runs counter to expectations that such a state of affairs should spur union activism. .
But the wages miners take home have come a long way in the past two decades, though payroll taxes are undermining those gains.
Like us reported in July wage growth in the mining sector nearly doubled the rate of inflation between 2001 and 2020. In 2001 the average wage per employee per year was R59,874. By 2020, that amount had risen to R335,096, a five-and-a-half-fold increase, according to data from the Minerals Council.
Of course, this comes from a grotesquely low base that was a reflection of the decades-long exploitation of a predominantly migrant workforce under colonialism and apartheid. A range of factors explain wage growth, including the efforts of unions over the years. The irony here is that after achieving such success, the militant side of the work was dulled.
It’s also true that a cost-of-living crisis can make a union member think twice about getting rid of their tools during a protracted strike, given the pressing income needs of their household. and wider kinship networks. Such a scenario can give companies – or capital – a decisive advantage at the negotiating table.
And in Amcu’s case, he led his members in protracted strikes in 2018/19 and earlier this year at the Sibanye gold mines, with little evidence of his efforts. Indeed, his base was almost certainly worse off because of those ill-conceived industrial actions, and as they say in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.
Meanwhile, the mining sector is dealing with growing social unrest and crime, which appears to have increased as labor ructions have receded. Five-year wage agreements do not guarantee stability in the sector. DM/BM