October 6, 2016 / 12:41 PM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's AMCU union says platinum wage talks at "critical stage"

2 Min Read

(Recasts with comments to conference)

By Ed Stoddard and Tanisha Heiberg

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Wage talks are at a "critical stage" between South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, the union's president said on Thursday.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a mining conference, Joseph Mathunjwa would not say if AMCU had moved from its original demands of close to a 50 percent pay hike. Amplats' chief executive said on Wednesday that his company was "fairly close" to sealing a wage agreement with AMCU and other unions.

Mathunjwa, who led a five-month strike in the platinum sector in 2014, told a mining conference that a dose of "madness" was needed to shake things up.

"To disrupt capital ... We have to bring a bit of madness to the programme," Mathunjwa told the gathering of executives, bankers, lawyers and analysts.

The Salvation Army lay preacher whose union dislodged the once dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on South Africa's platinum belt in a vicious turf war, later elaborated on what he meant by "madness."

"The madness...you have seen it in the five months strike, that is the kind of madness we are talking about ... South Africa needs that kind of madness to change these neo-liberal economic policies," Mathunjwa told journalists.

"How can you transform a system within a system if you don't disrupt the system?" he added.

Addressing the industry bosses gathered for the two-day conference at a plush polo club on the edge of South Africa's financial district, Mathunjwa told them to start sharing their profits with the workers.

"The current system does not work for anyone but investors and CEOs ... You still want to protect your super profits," said Mathunjwa, clad in AMCU's trademark green shirt.

He spoke of "slave salaries" and "colonialism" and "neo-liberalism," and even drew a round of applause when he spoke about corruption in government. (Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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