THE BOTTOM LINE
Timing of Amcu strike has turned into a deadly mistake
Mineworker killed after Sibanye’s takeover of Lonmin was already approved by the Competition Tribunal
In what was probably the least surprising development in the mining industry in 2018, the strike called by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines has resulted in violence and a death.
With 32,200 employees at the company’s three gold mines and related businesses preparing for the year-end, a time when bonuses are carefully nurtured to take home, it was bound to be a bad idea to call a wage strike.
Not only that, but the three other unions at the gold mines had already signed a wage deal. Amcu, with a 43% representation of workers, refused to participate in the agreement and has called its members out on a strike to demand a R1,000 a month wage increase compared to the R700 to R825 a month settled with the other unions.
The timing of the strike has raised questions, particularly because it was called when Sibanye’s all-share takeover of Lonmin was decided by the Competition Tribunal and approved. While Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa denies any link between the two events, there is clearly more to the gold strike than he is willing to concede in public.
The strike, which was always going to be marred by violence, has taken the life of a person belonging to the National Union of Mineworkers.
Despite the high levels of violence, including shootings, stabbings and beatings, the Amcu leadership declined to call off the strike.
Can the demand of a few hundred rand extra a month really justify the continuation of a strike in which people, who work side by side in gruelling underground conditions, are killed and hurt? Surely the Amcu leadership must see this is a deeply flawed strategy, call off the strike and find another way to advance its demands.