Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Joseph Mathunjwa is always exploiting workers' desperation. He took workers into a five month-long unpaid and unproductive strike just because he wanted to solidify his relevancy in the face of poor workers.

The five-month strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Workers Union (Amcu) was characterised by intimidation, violence and the killing of innocent mine workers. Instead of viewing that as a total failure, Mathunjwa shamelessly went on to claim a victory for a five-month, violent strike that did not achieve anything but suffering and misery.

He further insulted the workers by accepting essentially the same wage agreement signed in November 2018 by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Uasa and Solidarity.

Now that the strike has been called off, the workers will be paid what is called a “hardship payment” of R4,000 and will be forced into a cash loan of about R5,000 to be repaid over 12 months.

It goes without saying that poor workers lost in a big way. They were made to participate in the strike without getting their monthly basic salaries. The strike wasted workers’ time and brought with it poverty to their immediate families. A single mine worker supports up to 10 family members.

The agreement signed in 2018 covered wages and conditions of service from July 1 2018 to June 30 2021. The agreement allowed for increases of R700 per month in the first and second year, and R825 per month in the third year for category 4-8 surface and underground employees. Miners, artisans, and officials will receive increases of 5.5% in the first year and 5.5% or CPI — whichever is greater — in years two and three.

The living-out allowance was increased by R50 to a maximum of R2,150 per month from September 1 2018 and will reach R2,225 in 2019 and R2,325 in 2020. The guaranteed minimum severance payment was increased to R50,000 over the three-year period.

As a lifetime self-made president of Amcu it is important for Mathunjwa to sometimes familiarise himself with some basic wage negotiation skills. Compromise is a basic wage negotiation process in which both parties give up something they want in order to get something else they want more.

Compromises usually occur in win-lose situations — when there is a fixed pie to be divided up, and whatever one side gets the other side loses. In compromise situations, neither side gets all of what they really want, but they each make concessions to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both.

Now that the strike is over, the NUM demands the immediate arrest of perpetrators of violence at all Sibanye-Stillwater Operations. It can’t be business as usual.

Ever since the strike started in November, NUM members who were not on strike became targets on the basis that their union signed a wage agreement after a marathon of negotiations.

NUM members working for Sibanye Stillwater in various operations are continuing to count the losses. To date, more than 60 houses and 13 vehicles have been burnt. Nine workers were brutally killed. Other workers have since sustained serious injuries.

This is the extent of the damage so far caused by the violent Amcu strike.

Luphert Chilwane
Media officer, NUM