* AMCU is seeking a "living wage"
* Strike started Thursday, no end in sight
* Talks to resume on Tuesday
By Zandi Shabalala
PRETORIA, Jan 27 Government-brokered talks
between South Africa's AMCU union and the world's top three
platinum producers ended on Monday with no breakthrough in
efforts to end a strike that has hit half of global output of
the precious metal.
"They want to sleep on our demands, we are confident that
progress will happen tomorrow," Jimmy Gama, the main negotiator
for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction (AMCU), told
reporters after the talks ended at a Pretoria hotel.
AMCU members downed tools on Thursday at American Platinum
, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, bringing
operations around the gritty mining town of Rustenburg to a halt
and dealing a fresh blow to investor confidence in Africa's
Dozens of AMCU activists and shop stewards, clad in their
trade-mark green shirts, danced after the talks ended and
chanted that the companies were "running back to (President
Jacob) Zuma, they have lost the war."
The strikes are an unwelcome distraction for Zuma and his
ruling African National Congress (ANC) ahead of general
elections expected in three months.
There were no immediate reports of fresh violence on the
platinum belt, where dozens of people have been killed over the
past two years in a vicious turf war between AMCU and its arch
rival the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
The negotiations will resume on Tuesday and are scheduled to
go on into Wednesday.
Under the populist battle cry of a "living wage", AMCU is
demanding minimum entry-level pay of 12,500 rand ($1,100) a
month from the three platinum producers - a more than doubling
of current levels.
The three platinum producers say they can ill afford such
increases as they struggle to recover from a wave of wildcat
strikes, rooted in the AMCU/NUM conflict, that battered the
sector in 2012.
The companies last week said AMCU's demands were
"unaffordable and unrealistic" and have made offers of between
7.5 and 8.5 percent, well above the current inflation rate of
AMCU's demands relate to the basic minimum wage for
underground workers, which is generally around 5,500 rand a
month. But that is not the whole picture.
Aside from the basic wage, companies add benefits such as
holiday and accommodation allowances and pension contributions.
Miners may struggle to hold out without pay if the strike
becomes protracted. The typical South African mine worker has
eight dependants, many of whom are subsistence farmers in rural
areas far from the shafts.
This stokes their demands but also means they cannot survive
for long without an income. But AMCU has a well-earned
reputation for maintaining discipline in its ranks.