The National Union of Mineworkers said on Friday it expected to hold fresh pay talks with Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, within two weeks but would not reduce its demands.
NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the prospect of a strike by 18 000 workers, including contractors, at Lonmin’s flagship Marikana mine in the country remained high unless the company raised its offer.
“We will meet Lonmin and a conciliator in the next one or two weeks. However, we will not come down on our demand. The company must raise its pay rise offer,” Seshoka said.
There was no immediate comment from Lonmin.
NUM is demanding an 11% increase, while Lonmin is offering 7%.
South Africa has been hit by a wave of strikes and strike threats in both the private and public sectors, which have led to above-inflation settlements and stoked fears that the cost of living will rise.
The inflation rate slowed to a five-year low of 3,2% in September.
NUM and Lonmin agreed on a two-year pay rise deal last December, which included a clause for the parties to re-open negotiations if the rate of inflation fell below 5%.
Seshoka said the lowest paid employees at Lonmin were receiving about R3 200 per month, which he said was not a reasonable wage.
The NUM said on Thursday it had started to prepare for a possible strike at Lonmin operations in South Africa following the wage dispute.
Lonmin said in May it would need to send material out to be refined by rivals to meet its sales target of 700 000 ounces of platinum for its year to end-September.
An analyst said Lonmin would have to accede to union demands to achieve its new planned target.
“We have seen strikes impacting other producers severely in the past, so I would think they have to resolve that pretty quick,” Sasha Naryshkine an analyst at Vestact said.
Junior producer Northam Platinum said early this month that it lost around $55-million in revenue following a crippling six-week strike by workers.
South Africa’s major platinum producers are Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum. – Reuters