Striking Implats miners attack union leaders

Workers at South Africa’s Impala Platinum, the world’s No. 2 platinum producer, attacked union leaders who tried to persuade them to return to work, injuring a top union official, the company and union said on Friday.

Implats spokesperson Bob Gilmour said on Friday there was still no output at Implats’ biggest mine, Rustenburg, where workers on Thursday evening stoned and beat union officials who tried to persuade them to accept Implats’ pay offer and go to work.

The strike at Impala Platinum (Implats), which supplies a quarter of world’s platinum, is in its second week.

Shane Coshane, a spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers, South Africa’s biggest union, said divisions within the union were showing.

”Factionalism is starting to emerge, there was a fight at Rustenburg, and some leaders were attacked,” Coshane said.

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. The strike has not had affected platinum prices, largely because of a slump in the car manufacturing sector.

But there is still concern the strike could spread after workers at Anglo Platinum also rejected a pay offer. Another round of wage talks at Anglo Platinum is due on September 7.

Injured
Pete Matosa, the National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) deputy president, was injured in the attack late on Thursday and taken to hospital, Implats and union officials said.

”There were stones thrown by some rogue elements among the workers, and he was hit in the face,” Gilmour said. ”I understand he was trying to persuade them to take the offer and return to work, but some guys were angry with that.”

NUM’s Coshane said leaders were convinced that Implats’ was unlikely to budge from its pay offer of a 10% increase and agree to the workers’ demands for a 14% wage raise. Workers also want transport and housing allowances.

Implats, facing lower earnings and rising costs, has said it cannot afford the 14% pay increase, which is more than twice inflation of 6,7%.

No formal wage talks were planned for Friday after talks this week failed to bridge the divide, Gilmour said.

Gilmour said most workers on strike at its smaller Marula mine had returned to work, production had re-started and would run a full day and night shift on Friday and Saturday.

The company’s metal refinery in Springs, east of Johannesburg, had not been affected by the strike, he said.

Gilmour said all employees at Rustenburg’s processing plant were back at work, but the unit could not yet carry out any operations because the mine was at a standstill.

The strike has so far cost Implats more than 20 000 ounces. The Rustenburg mine produces about one million ounces a year. — 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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