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ECONOMY: Fallout from the Platinum Strike Could Be Major


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The prolonged platinum mining strikes – which cost companies billions of Rands – may, also, have set a new precedent, with many white collar employees now demanding salary increases.

Christopher Riley, MD of notebook and accessories retailer, The Notebook Company, said his company had recently experienced a number of wage increase demands from employees.

“This situation is unprecedented in the history of our company – which is more than 20 years old. We have, during this period – which has lasted several months- lost a handful of staff. This is clearly not good for business, but we cannot pander to the whims of our employees.

“Just because miners were demanding a basic salary of R12 500 per month it seems as though workers with higher levels of education – and experience- believe they are entitled to higher salaries. But we cannot, willy-nilly, just give in to pressures for unwarranted salary increases.

“That could be unstainable for us. However, the reduction in our human resources have impacted negatively in terms of us being able to service our client base at a 100 percent capacity level.

“I believe it is likely that more than a handful of companies are facing this situation – although very few, if any - will want to comment. They will remain tight-lipped.”

The fallout from the prolonged platinum strike is going to be profound. Going forward, fewer miners will be employed in the medium to long term.

This is the belief of Sean Jones, co-founder and director of black-empowered artisan training company, Artisan Training Institute (ATI).

”The strike has threatened to plunge South Africa into a recession and, although the Reserve Bank’s Gill Marcus has stated this is unlikely, there has to be a high level of concern.

“When we look at the mining industry itself –and the miners – if Amcu, the trade union body, does manage to get its members a R12 500 minimum wage within the next three years, this will leave many miners on the sidelines, without the hope of employment.”

Jones said this is because mines will employ fewer miners at the higher minimum rate and would aim to mechanise as rapidly as possible – and would shut down marginally profitable mines, using more skilled miners to operate and maintain the new machinery.

The fallout from the platinum strike is not going to help families who need a roof over their heads and food on the table. More people, rather than less, will be going hungry.

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