Amcu postpones decision on possible strike

The dominant union at Anglo American Platinum's South African mines has postponed to next year a decision on a possible strike over pay at the world’s biggest producer of the metal.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union will ask members to decide on a possible strike once they return in January from a two-week break, Jimmy Gama, its treasurer and spokesperson, said on Tuesday by phone. The Amcu got permission for a legal strike at the company, known as Amplats, two weeks ago after exhausting mediation procedures.

The Amcu usurped the National Union of Mineworkers in the past year as the biggest representative of employees at the world’s three largest platinum producers – Amplats, Impala Platinum and Lonmin – which mine most of their metal in South Africa. The union is demanding that basic monthly wages for the lowest-paid underground workers be more than doubled to R12 500. Amplats has offered 7%.

Mpumi Sithole, a spokesperson for Johannesburg-based Amplats, wasn’t immediately able to comment when contacted by phone. The Amcu had considered calling a strike vote on November 30 or December 1, but was unable to arrange a venue, Gama said.

Amplats erased earlier gains of as much as 0.9% in Johannesburg trading after the union’s comments, falling 1.7% to R384.39 by 12.29pm. Platinum for immediate delivery was little changed at $1 384.46 an ounce after rising as much as 0.4%.

South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on November 13 gave the Amcu the right to call a strike at Amplats without its members risking dismissal.

Impala Platinum
Impala Platinum will meet with the Amcu on December 12 in the latest effort to reach a wage settlement, Johan Theron, a spokesperson for the company, said on Tuesday by phone. The Amcu lowered its wage demand from the company by 31% to R8.67 on November 12. The producer that day revised its offer for the lowest- paid below-surface workers to increases of 8.5% for the first year of a three-year deal. They currently earn R5 500.

"The meeting is a last-ditch attempt to get a settlement before Christmas," Theron said. Workers would be entitled to salary increase payments backdated to July when the previous wage arrangement lapsed, he said. "If we can’t get an agreement before Christmas, we won’t be able to make those payments."

Impala’s operations close on December 20 and re-open on January 5, Theron said.

The Amcu and Lonmin will meet for mediation by the CCMA on December 10, Gama said.

NUM members plan on Tuesday to march to the offices of Northam Platinum Ltd., a smaller producer, as a work stoppage over pay enters a fourth week. The NUM has been striking since November 3 and has rejected wage increase offers of between 8% and 9%. – Bloomberg

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Andre Janse
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