Jan 27 (Reuters) - South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has launched strikes in a dispute over wages with the world's top three platinum producers.
The following are some facts and figures about AMCU's demands, the offers from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, and wages in the sector.
Under the populist battle cry of a "living wage", AMCU is demanding minimum entry-level pay of 12,500 rand ($1,100) a month from the three platinum producers - a more than doubling of current levels.
The three platinum producers say they can ill afford such increases as they struggle to recover from a wave of wildcat strikes that battered the sector in 2012.
The companies, which last week said AMCU's demands were "unaffordable and unrealistic", have made offers of between 7.5 and 8.5 percent, well above current inflation of 5.4 percent.
CURRENT PAY LEVELS
AMCU's demands relate to the basic minimum wage for underground workers, which is generally around 5,500 rand a month. But that is not the whole picture.
Aside from the basic wage, companies add benefits such as holiday and accommodation allowances and pension contributions.
Implats, for example, says the guaranteed minimum remuneration for its entry-level surface workers is just shy of 8,000 rand a month and almost 8,700 rand a month for underground miners, if other allowances and contributions are added to the basic wage.
A LIVING WAGE?
Calculating a "living wage" - an emotive goal that echoes demands made over the decades by black South African mine workers - is no easy task.
The issue is complicated by many variables and the difficulty of defining fair pay for work that may often require only low levels of skill but is tough and dangerous, not to mention global platinum prices and what companies can afford if they want to remain profitable.
South Africa's typical mine worker also has around eight dependants to feed and often two families, one near the shafts and the other in their rural home villages hundreds of kilometres (miles) away.
A Reuters analysis last year, based on a rough estimation of what a household of such size would typically spend to meet basic nutritional and other needs, found the minimum wages just met the basic essentials of such a family.
- For a factbox on South African platinum mines affected by the strike:
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg; Editing by Dale Hudson)