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The Workers’ and Socialist Party today hails the resolution of the five-month-long strike in the platinum sector as a victory not only for the mineworkers and their union AMCU, but for all workers and poor people. The increases for the lowest paid workers of R1000 in the first and second year and R950 in the third represent unprecedented gains and a significant step forward in the struggle for a living wage for all.
The settlement which has now been accepted by workers is evidence that determined and united struggle pays. The significant concessions that have been forced out of the mining companies expose as lies their claims of unaffordability.
The determination that has enabled workers to endure five months of hardship is an inspiration to workers and fighting communities and youth across South Africa and beyond. The strike has polarised society along class lines, clarifying who stands on which side of the class battle lines. WASP has throughout this strike made our support of the workers clear. Political parties such as the ANC and the SACP have also left beyond doubt that they side with the bosses. Strike-breaking trade unions such as the NUM, Solidarity and WAU have also imprinted their betrayals in the minds of hundreds of thousands of workers. The deal being signed today is also a victory over the virtual army of detractors that has attempted to demonise not only the striking workers and AMCU, but also anyone daring to actively support their action, for allegedly ruining the SA economy.
This strike, inspired by the martyrs of Marikana has been the most important since the 2012 mineworkers’ strikes. It has posed the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist economic system – the need for the mining industry to be nationalised so that the massive mineral resources can be used both to end poverty wages and to create jobs and develop mining communities and society as a whole. Today’s step forward should serve as a platform from which the labour movement as a whole takes the lead given by AMCU to continue the fight to these ends.
The mineworkers must prepare to fight back the likely attempts by the mining bosses to claw back tomorrow what they conceded today. Retrenchments cannot be accepted – the mineral wealth of this land is enough to provide jobs for many more! The platinum workers’ victory will certainly boost the confidence of workers in the metal and engineering industry and in the public sector, who face looming strike action and tough wage negotiations to mention just a couple of examples. The Workers and Socialist Party will continue to stand firmly on the frontline of these struggles and work to maximise their level of organisation, unity and clarity.
The AMCU-led strike in the platinum mines is still going on, despite last week’s expectations of an imminent settlement. As mass meetings have been held across the Rustenburg and Thabazimbi shafts over the past few days, workers have formulated conditions which they want met before calling off the strike. These have been presented to the employers, and further moves can only be expected once they respond. The initial reaction has been to repeat the claims that the workers’ demands are ‘unaffordable’ and ‘unrealistic’, which still ring as hollow as they did in January – the major mines made average profits of R39bn in 2011, for example, and have enjoyed profit margins ten times the average on JSE over the past 13 years.
The Workers and Socialist party continues to stand in solidarity with the platinum workers at this critical point of their struggle for a R12 500 living wage. Enduring enormous sacrifices, these workers have done the entire labour movement a service by placing the struggle for a living wage for all on the agenda. What is now posed is whether to take that struggle further through this particular strike or to call it off for now to gather strength for further battles.
As WASP has consistently pointed out, taking the struggle for R12 500 onwards requires that the platinum workers are backed up by workers throughout not only the mining industry but the economy as a whole – what is needed is nothing less than a general strike in support of the struggle for R12 500 and also for the nationalisation under worker- and community control of the mines. Mining communities and other poor communities across South Africa, which desperately need the jobs and the development that publicly owned mines could provide, should also be mobilised. If AMCU is prepared to take this route, more could still be won.
But if the majority of workers feel that the settlement which is currently being negotiated is as far as this battle can be taken for now with workers’ unity and morale maintained, it should be recognised that the increases of about R1000 per year would be quite unprecedented – and that they would represent a victory in itself, and an important platform from which to continue the struggle. The increases on the table range from 13% to 20%.
Since the employer’s new revised offer was placed on the negotiating table, workers have been subjected to unrelenting pressure to accept it and end the strike. Going into overdrive, the capitalist propaganda machine presented as an ‘agreement in principle’ even before workers had had an opportunity to consider it. The mineworkers were accused of inflicting their suffering upon themselves, of being responsible for the destruction of the Rustenburg economy, the dismal performance of the country’s economy and downgrading by rating agencies. The bosses are in a hurry to see an end to the strike because they fear that the enormous sympathy the mineworkers are enjoying could result in WASP’s call for a general strike gaining momentum.
Regardless of which tactic the platinum workers opt for once the bosses respond, this strike points very sharply to the need for workers and working class communities to continue the struggle for a living wage and for taking up the fight for nationalisation.
If these companies, which extract multibillion-rand-profits, are not prepared to break with the poverty wages this industry rests on, ownership should be taken away from them.
Democratic planning of production could allow the mining industry to provide sustainable, decent jobs on living wages as well as the resources that are badly needed for housing, basic services, education and so on.
Follow this link to listen to Liv Shange on Radio 702.
The Workers’ and Socialist Party (WASP) is outraged at the accusations against ‘white foreign nationals’ out to ‘destabilise South Africa’ which have, again, been thrown out by the African National Congress’ Gwede Mantashe in an obvious attempt to deflect attention from his government’s failure to address the needs of mineworkers and the working class in general.
After the ANC’s NEC meeting ended Sunday, Mantashe said that the ruling party is concerned that the strike in the platinum mines, led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), is as a matter of fact not driven by workers’ issues over pay and conditions but by ‘politics’, more specifically fuelled by ‘white foreign nationals’ who are ‘out to destabilise South Africa and its economy’. This echoes almost word-for-word the allegations he levelled a year ago against leading WASP member Liv Shange, a Swedish national resident in SA for the past ten years, who through the Democratic Socialist Movement, a founding member of WASP, played a role in coordinating the 2012 mineworkers’ strike for R12 500 which followed the Marikana massacre. Mantashe’s accusations last year were linked to claims of Shange being investigated by state intelligence as well as by the Department of Home Affairs, and she was threatened with deportation and separation from her family in SA.
We condemn this attempt by the ANC to again play a racist, xenophobic card to draw attention away from how its government and the capitalist economy it presides over is failing to address the needs of mineworkers and the working class in general.
Of course the ongoing platinum strike is political, for both workers and employers, in the sense that it is a struggle for power over the wealth of society, but the mineworkers don’t need ‘foreigner’ to come and tell them that. There is no need for any ‘third force’ to come and destabilise SA and its economy – instability is built into this system by the huge gap between the capitalist haves and the working class have-nots, which forces workers to struggle for the most modest share of the wealth that they create, like the mineworkers are doing at the moment.