Implats workers consult on pay offer, strike

Workers at the world’s number two platinum producer will hold a meeting Wednesday to weigh Impala Platinum’s latest pay offer after talks meant to resolve a strike failed to reach agreement, their union said.

Impala said some employees were ready to resume work, while others wanted to continue the strike, but the company could only resume mining once all workers were available.

South Africa produces four-fifths of the world’s platinum, which is mostly used in making catalytic converters to cut pollutants from car exhausts, and in jewellery. Concern grew last week that work could stop across the industry when workers at Anglo Platinum also rejected a pay offer.

The strike at Implats, now in its second week, has halted production at the company’s biggest mine, Rustenburg, and its smaller Marula mine. Implats’s Springs metal refinery has so far not yet been affected by the industrial action, the union said.

The striking workers also want transport and housing allowances.

”There is nothing new, we are still far apart. Our demand is for a 14% increase, and the company is still at 10%,” Eddie Majadibodu, the chief negotiator for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) — South Africa’s biggest union — told Reuters.

”I will meet with the workers to see the way forward.”

Majadibodu said he would meet with Implats later in the day.

Although the strike at the platinum miner is protected by law, workers are normally not paid while on a strike. The lowest paid worker at Implats earns R3 500 a month. So far the striking workers have lost more than a week’s wages.

The company, facing lower earnings and rising costs, has said it cannot afford the pay increases and has so far offered a 10% raise.

Implats spokesperson Bob Gilmour said the demand for a 14% pay raise was still non-negotiable, because it is more than twice the inflation rate of 6,7%.

”This demand is still totally unacceptable,” he said.

”A lot of guys want to go back to work, but others don’t and we need everyone to be able to operate the mining system.”

About 20 000 workers at Implats have been on strike since last week Monday at Rustenburg, and some workers at its Marula mine, which employs 4 000, did not show up for work. — 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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