No end to mining strike

THE Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and
Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday accused
Chamber of Mines lead negotiator Elize
Strydom of "white-anting" or undermining the
mediation process to find a resolution to a
seven-week platinum strike.
Ms Strydom was strongly critical of the way
CCMA facilitators handled talks between the
world’s three largest platinum companies and
the Association of Mineworkers and
Construction Union (Amcu) in a weekend
newspaper. "Senior commissioners of the CCMA
need to understand economics, otherwise you
cannot be a negotiator, let alone a facilitator or
mediator," she was quoted as saying.
The CCMA demanded that the chamber
withdraw the comments "or face the
consequences". It warned CEO Bheki Sibiya to
either endorse her comments or "reject them in
their entirety and apologise to the CCMA and
all affected parties".
It said the concerns raised by Ms Strydom, who
criticised Amcu and its "united sullenness", had
not been brought to the CCMA’s attention.

"In the article, Ms Strydom raises very serious
allegations and unjustly accuses the CCMA of
misconduct and incompetence in respect of a
CCMA-facilitated process," CCMA director
Nerine Kahn said in a letter to Mr Sibiya.
"It is regrettable that the chamber or Ms
Strydom has chosen to white-ant the CCMA and
use the media as a negotiating forum by
entering into a comparative analysis of the
relative merits of the bargaining partners and
mediators," Ms Kahn said.
She went on to say that the chamber had
either to endorse Ms Strydom’s comments or
reject them and apologise to all concerned.
"Should you decide to endorse Ms Strydom’s
comments, we would request that you urgently
put forward whatever mediation process you
believe best serves the interests of all the
social partners in the mining industry … (and it)
would indicate that you clearly have no faith in
the institution that is made available by the
state and which is accepted by all social
partners in other economic sectors," Ms Kahn
The chamber said on Monday that it was
dealing with the matter internally and would
respond directly to the CCMA without making
its correspondence public. There was no
indication of whether it backed Ms Strydom,
who has led members in the gold sector
through numerous bruising wage talks.
Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said the chamber
had no right to question the credibility of the
CCMA-facilitated process. The talks were with
the three companies and not via the chamber,
which handles collective bargaining for the gold
and coal sectors, he said.
One industry source said the impasse in the
platinum sector, which has cost the three
companies R7.7bn in lost revenue and workers
R3.4bn in forfeited wages, was driven by
complex issues that were unlikely to be much
affected by Ms Strydom’s comments.
"That said, it is still an incredibly damaging
thing that’s happened. It’s important for the
mining industry to support labour legislation
and related institutions at this time," the source
Independent labour law expert Tony Healy said
Ms Strydom was a "highly experienced and
measured negotiator", and that her comments
were "unusual".
It was also unusual to see parties express
unhappiness during mediated talks, rather than
unhappiness over a judgment from the
commission, he said.
But if there were validity in Ms Strydom’s
claims, it could be a lesson that a rethink was
required during mediation, where
commissioners worked as a team, said Mr
The question could then be asked: "Do they
bring in concert a range of skills, knowledge
and education that immunises them against
any accusation?"
The CCMA last week adjourned talks between
Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and
Lonmin and Amcu indefinitely, citing the
distance between the union’s demands and the
companies’ offer.
Amcu’s list of demands includes an entry level
wage for underground workers of R12,500 a
month over four years, more than double the
current basic salary of R5,700.
Companies are offering increases of between
9% and 7.5% over three years, taking the
minimum guaranteed pay packet to R11,800 a
month. The CEOs have argued that they are at
the maximum of what their operations can
Adcorp labour market analyst Loane Sharp said
on Monday that parties came to wage
negotiations with different levels of power and
influence over the outcomes.
"Workers have the mines over a barrel, we
need to recognise this as fact that there is an
imbalance in power arising from labour laws,
and extending to the CCMA as an agency," he


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