After the news on Thursday about the willingness of the workers’ representatives to sign a deal with the mining bosses, it has emerged that the talks are at a more advanced stage to broker a deal to end South Africa’s most expensive industrial action. This was revealed by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) leader, Joseph Mathunjwa when he spoke on Talk Radio 702 on Friday.
Mathunjwa went on to explain that the parties to the negotiation had agreed on most issues, which gave rise to the hope that a settlement was on the horizon. He told the Johannesburg-based radio station that there was light at the end of the tunnel, in apparent reference to agreement of the miners to the wage offer by the mining bosses of Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo-American Platinum. On Thursday, at a rally in Marikana, the workers literally begged the union leader to sign the deal in which the mining bosses were offering the workers an increase of R1 000 per month.
The workers went on strike on the 23rd of January, 2014, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500 per month for the entry level. The mining bosses have insisted that this salary would not be sustainable for the mines and would, at the very least, lead to job cuts and job losses. This has also been one of the bones of contention for the members of AMCU in the negotiation process. They have insisted that if, after the strike is resolved, there are job cuts or losses, this would be regarded as a breach of agreement and could possibly lead to a resurgence of the strike. No response has been forthcoming from the mining bosses on this score.
Speaking to Talk Radio 702, Joseph Mathunjwa said that what remained was for him to take the mining bosses’ offer to the other miners before he met with the mining bosses. He made it clear that even though progress had been made, they were still not out of the woods yet in terms of the talks. He said that there was light at the end of the tunnel and it was not the light of a goods train, in apparent reference to the solidity of the points that had been agreed upon. The main sticking point to the agreement was whether the wage deal would stretch over three or five years.
According to some observers, the mood in the mining towns in Rustenburg was very jubilant as workers anticipated going back to work after close to five months and obviously more income. It remains to be seen that these hopes are going to be realised in a strike that has been the longest and most expensive in the history of South Africa.