Wage talks intend to avert strike at Implats

A mine workers union and negotiators at Impala Platinum were in talks to head off a strike over wages that could affect global prices of the precious metal.

The negotiations with the world’s second largest platinum producer take place after unionised gold and coal workers reached deals this week for 7.5% to 10% wage hikes to end strikes that dented output in the global mining power.

Results from the talks are not expected until later on Thursday, said Eddie Majadibodu, chief negotiator at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

“The negotiations are getting very tough now, so it is difficult to say where the talks will go,” he said on Wednesday.

The NUM — seeking a 14% raise for its 26 000 workers at Implats — has rejected the latest offer from the company of between 7.5% and 8%. Unions say employers should pass along the benefits of high precious metal prices to workers facing increasing food and fuel bills.

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Implats and its bigger rival Anglo American Platinum together account for two-thirds of global platinum supply and any prolonged strike could push prices higher.

Economists have cautioned that wage settlements well above the current 5% inflation rate erode South Africa’s global competitiveness by driving up the cost for a labour force already more expensive and less efficient than those in rival emerging economies.

The African National Congress — in a governing alliance with labour — does not want to antagonise a group that has supplied it with millions of votes by putting pressure on unions to seek more modest deals.

Gold miners started returning to work late on Tuesday after a two-year deal was reached with the country’s top three gold miners. The companies said it would take a day or two before mines are back to full production.

The NUM said it is also in wage talks with state-owned utility Eskom, which supplies more than 95% of South Africa’s power. They were also expected to last into Thursday. — Reuters

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