Implats strike spreads, hits second SA mine

A strike at South Africa’s Impala Platinum, the world’s No. 2 producer of the precious metal, has spread to another mine and hit output, the company said on Friday.

About 20 000 workers at Impala Platinum’s (Implats) Rustenburg mine — the company’s biggest — have been on strike over a wage dispute since Monday night, and the workers’ union had warned of a company-wide strike.

”The strike has partially affected Marula since last night’s shift, some people decided not to go to work and production will be affected,” Implats spokesperson Bob Gilmour told Reuters.

Marula employs about 4 000 workers, Gilmour said.

So far no new talks to resolve the deadlock were planned, the company and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said.

The NUM, which wants a 14% pay hike — more than double inflation — said it would continue the strike indefinitely.

But the strike has so far had a limited impact on the broader financial markets in South Africa because wage talks in most sectors and industries, including power, gold and coal, have already been settled.

South Africa produces four fifths of the world’s platinum and Implats alone supplies 25% of the precious metal, mainly from its South African operations and mines in Zimbabwe.

Platinum was at $1 235 an ounce from a close of $1 240,50. Analysts said the strike has had little effect on the price because demand for cars was depressed, and a strike would have to be wider and more sustained to have an impact.

Court order
Implats chief executive David Brown said on Thursday he could sack thousands of striking workers, escalating a wage dispute after miners threatened to spread to all its operations.

The NUM — which says the striking workers are protected by the law — said it was aware of plans by Implats to get court orders to stop the strike.

”We have heard that Implats is seeking a court order to stop the strike, but they will fail in their efforts,” NUM’s spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said.

Implats could not be immediately reached to comment on the court order.

Implats has said it will not bow to the union’s pay hike demands after reporting on Thursday that annual earnings had halved and costs rose by more than a third.

The company’s share price was down about 2% at 08.00GMT on Friday, underperforming bigger peer Anglo Platinum, which was up about 1,2%.

Marula produced 74 000 ounces of platinum in Implats’ financial year, which runs to the end of June, the company said.

Gilmour said efforts by the union to get workers at the company’s refinery plant in Springs had so far failed, and its joint venture mines in South Africa were operating normally.

Pay talks broke down after NUM rejected Implats’ offer of a 10% raise, and demanded a 14% hike, and transport and housing allowances.

Pay settlements above 6,7% inflation after strikes and threats of them in other sectors have led to worries over inflation pressures and the ability of companies to lift Africa’s biggest economy out of its first recession in 17 years. — Reuters

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James Macharia
James Macharia works from Johannesburg via Nairobi. Reuters Bureau Chief Southern Africa, ex-deputy chief East Africa. My views. James Macharia has over 5484 followers on Twitter.

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