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AMCU says platinum wage signing deal postponed

President of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union Joseph Mathunjwa addresses members at the Impala Rugby fields on January 16, 2019 in Rustenburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Thapelo Morebudi)

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has abruptly postponed the signing of wage deals with South Africa's big platinum producers scheduled for Wednesday, citing "remaining differences regarding the last proposed amendments." This is turning out to be a cliffhanger, with a key industry in the balance.

After four months, it seemed wage talks in South Africa’s platinum mining sector had concluded with decent wage hikes above inflation and no protracted and violent strike. Everyone had won, and the bubbly was about to get uncorked. Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum (Implats) could all breathe a sigh of relief. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (AMCU’s) rival unions, which have also accepted the offers on the table, would have been relieved as well.

Then AMCU, which had said in a statement late on Tuesday afternoon that the signing ceremony would take place at a country lodge near Johannesburg, inexplicably pulled the plug. In a WhatsApp message to journalists and on Twitter, it said: “The Signing Ceremony scheduled for 13 November 2019 at the Glenburn Lodge & Spa has been postponed to date yet to be confirmed. #AMCU apologises for any inconvenience and will communicate the new date once it’s confirmed.”

In a subsequent statement on Wednesday, AMCU said the following: “The reason for the postponement is the finalisation of the agreement documents to reflect the mandate given by AMCU members during the previous week’s mass meetings at the respective mining houses.”

“In the meantime, AMCU has called urgent technical meetings with each of the mining houses to iron out the remaining differences regarding the last proposed amendments. Due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations, AMCU will not comment on the details of the specific amendments in question at this stage,” it said.

It is hard to say what is at play here. Is there last-minute wrangling for new concessions? Did someone take offense at something?

The left hand doesn’t appear to know what the right hand is doing,” quipped one industry source to Business Maverick.

It could possibly have been a mix-up and someone may have pulled the trigger hastily.

One thing is for sure. With AMCU, expect the unexpected.BM

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