Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: REUTERS
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: REUTERS

After four months of negotiations, the platinum sector has managed to avert a strike as three major producers inked a wage deal with the majority union.

At a ceremony on Friday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) signed the deal with platinum miners Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum and Sibanye-Stillwater.  

The settlement has been upheld by the parties as fair and in the medium term is expected to bring stability to a sector that has been a hotspot since tensions culminated in the Marikana massacre in August 2012 when police killed 34 protesters.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said a basic monthly increase of R1,000 a worker per annum amounted to more than R5.7bn in total over the next three years and would benefit employees as well as their local economies. 

Amcu has been negotiating with the country’s biggest platinum miners since July when its initial demand was as high as a 48% increase for workers. 

In the final deal, Amplats agreed to an increase of R1,000 a month in basic pay, or 5.5%, whichever is greater, for each year of the agreement. The settlement includes other benefits, such as ex gratia payments of R1,000 in July 2020 and R1,500 in July 2021.

Sibanye-Stillwater has agreed to an annual increase of R1,000 a month, or a 5% increase, whichever is higher. Implats agreed to an increase of R1,100, or 6%.

In October, Amcu stood firm that it would not accept less than a R1,000 increase in workers’ monthly wages and deferred negotiations with Amplats and Sibanye to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

On Friday, Mathunjwa said he had not expected that negotiations would take four months, given the high platinum group metals (PGM) prices.

The companies said they were pleased to have reached a fair settlement that was sustainable for both their businesses and their employees. 

Arnold van Graan, mining analyst at Nedbank Corporate & Investment Banking, said any deal that avoids a strike is a good deal, as there are no winners in a strike.

“We also believe each company paid what it could afford, without jeopardising its long-term viability. So it seems like it was a good comprise in the end. With the wage deal in place, everyone can get on with the business of fixing the industry,” he said.

Peter Major, director of mining at Mergence Corporate Solutions, said he thought the settlement was reached relatively quickly and that the agreements were generous of the mining companies.

Major said the deal was a bit of a gamble on the part of the PGM mines that current, high precious metal prices will last but, ultimately, “a three-year settlement is really good for industry. That’s why they paid more than they needed to.”

Major said Mathunjwa comes off well, having handled the negotiations maturely, and deserves recognition for brokering such a settlement without a strike.

steynl@businesslive.co.za