Amcu gets permission to strike over wages at Amplats

The largest union at Anglo American Platinum’s South African mines got permission to strike after a mediator failed to resolve a wage deadlock between the labour group and the world’s biggest producer of the metal.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Wednesday issued a certificate of nonresolution over the dispute after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) rejected a pay-increase offer of 7% for the year through June, Amcu national treasurer Jimmy Gama said by phone. "We'll have a meeting with our members in a week or two" to decide on a possible strike, Gama said. The CCMA permit allows Amcu's members to stop work within 48 hours of giving the company notice.

Amcu usurped the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the past year as the biggest representative of employees at the world's three largest platinum producers, which mine most of their metal in South Africa. The country has the world's biggest known reserves of the metal.

Amcu is demanding basic monthly wages for the lowest paid underground workers be more than doubled to R12 500. The country's annual inflation rate was 6% in September.

Mpumi Sithole, a spokesperson for Amplats, as the Johannesburg-based company is known, confirmed by text message that the parties were issued the non-resolution certificate. The CCMA issued Amcu and Impala Platinum, the world's second-largest producer of the metal, a similar certificate on October 23. The union has yet to set a date for the stoppage.

Impala talks
Amcu on Tuesday cut its wage-increase demand at Impala by 31% to R8 668 as the parties worked toward avoiding a possible strike, Johan Theron, a spokesperson for Impala, said on Wednesday. Impala has increased the offer to the lowest-paid below-surface miners by 0.5 percentage point to 8.5% for the first year of the three-year deal, Theron said. They currently earn R5 500.

"We are closer, but still far from one another," Theron said. "The parties undertook to consult with their principals and meet again."

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa confirmed that Impala increased its offer when contacted by phone on Wednesday. He didn't comment on the union's reduced demands.

Northam Platinum, operator of the world's deepest platinum mine, and the NUM will attend a meeting called by the CCMA on November 15 about an ongoing strike at the company, said Ecliff Tantsi, the NUM's chief negotiator at Northam.

Mogalakwena security
The union called a wage strike on November 3 and rejected a revised offer to increase pay by as much as 9% on November 7. "The current offer is the maximum the company can afford," Northam said in a statement on Wednesday. "The longer the mine stands, the less affordable the offer becomes."

Security staff at Amplats's Mogalakwena mine in the northern Limpopo province on Wednesday broke up a group of protesters who were demanding jobs and destroying mine property, the company said. "Our security personnel had to fire warning shots using non-lethal ammunition to disperse the crowd," it said. "The company has engaged the South African Police Service to try and bring calm to the area."

Operations at Mogalakwena weren't interrupted, Sithole said. – Bloomberg

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Andre Janse
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