Fri, 24 May 2013 05:45:00 GMT | By Sapa

Vavi: Mining Wage Demands Justified

The wage demands submitted to the Chamber of Mines are justified and reasonable, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.

Zwelinzima Vavi (© Gallo)

"Your latest wage demands... for 2013 wage negotiations have, as usual been blatantly misrepresented in the media, with headlines about a 60 percent claim and their usual cries of 'excessive', 'outrageous' and 'greedy'," Vavi told the NUM's central committee meeting in Pretoria.

"Not only are your demands justified, but there is no reason why the bosses should not agree to them."

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was demanding a R7000 per month entry-level increase for above-ground workers, R8000 for underground and opencast workers, and a further 15 percent increase for all other categories.

Vavi said the union was correct to demand that rock-drill operators' job categories be increased to a category eight and other categories to seven.

"Nothing moves in mining without the rock-drillers... the money must say the same."

He said contrary to the hype around trouble in the sector, mining companies were still making a profit for shareholders. Between 2006 and 2011, Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum between them made R160 billion in profit.

"That's enough to build more than three million one-room RDP houses at R50,000 each.

"So why are platinum workers still living in shacks?"

Vavi said the rate of profit might have fallen in some instances, but this did not mean companies were running into a loss-making situation.

He asked why some of their "greedy" returns were not shifted to workers.

The NUM's demands were in line with the decision taken at the Congress of SA Trade Unions' collective bargaining, organising and campaigns conference held in March.

According to the Labour Research Service Report on Bargaining Indicators (2011) minimum wages were 19 percent below the living wage level of R4105. The conference called for a legislated national minimum wage to be introduced by 2014.

"This would be a significant first step towards greater equality and start to drag millions of poor workers out of poverty," said Vavi.

However, the minimum wage should not replace collective bargaining between employers and labour, but complement it.

Vavi said the current "attack" on the NUM was history repeating itself.

"It's not the first time the union is put up for brutal assault by counter-revolutionary forces. The UDM and others know the only way to deal with the liberation forces led by the tripartite alliance is to kill its most potent weapon -- the NUM," he said.

The United Democratic Movement is a staunch supporter of the NUM's rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Vavi referred to 1987 when 50,000 mine workers were dismissed after a strike. He said the Chamber of Mines thought it had "finally sorted out" the NUM, and mining bosses celebrated.

Confidence in the NUM was at an all time low. However, the NUM managed to build itself up again.

"Their dream was to smash the NUM and deal with them once and for all," said Vavi.

"[Now they are trying to] kill everything we have secured over the past 19 years."

He said mining bosses in Rustenburg and elsewhere were now celebrating and "mickey mouse political parties" had joined them.

"They are trying to ensure that every Tom, Jack, and Mary in town... want to see the union divided and eventually defeated," Vavi said.

The rivalry between the NUM and Amcu in Rustenburg and the mining sector intensified and escalated into violence. The NUM lost members to Amcu.

Vavi said the union was aware of the problems it faced.

"[We] pledge our total support and solidarity as you battle against both the mine bosses and a rival, breakaway union," Vavi told the NUM.

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