Johannesburg - Anglo American Platinum Ltd. mines were halted as workers started a strike in protest at plans to cut 3,300 jobs at the South African operations of the world’s largest producer of the metal.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the biggest at Anglo Platinum, downed tools at the start of today’s morning shift, union Treasurer Jimmy Gama said by phone.
The AMCU is challenging last month’s decision by the Johannesburg-based platinum producer, known as Amplats, to consolidate five mines into three at its Rustenburg operations as it seeks to curb costs.
The mines are losing more than 1 billion rand ($100 million) every six months, chief executive Chris Griffith said August 30.
Amplats accounts for about 40 percent of global supply.
Operations near Rustenburg in the North West province have come to a standstill, Franz Stehring, head of mining at minority Amplats union UASA, said by phone.
While UASA hasn’t joined the strike, “there is very little other workers can do without AMCU’s members” attending their shifts, Stehring said.
Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for Amplats, wasn’t immediately able to comment when contacted by phone.
“Downsizing the workforce is unfortunately necessary for the survival of the business and for ensuring a secure future for the remaining 45,000 employees,” Sithole said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
In separate wage talks held yesterday, Amplats offered workers wage increases of 6 percent, UASA’s Stehring said.
AMCU rejected the offer and declared a deadlock with the company, Gama said.
“The company was not attending to our demand for a living wage,” Gama said.
The union wants entry-level wages to be more than doubled to 12,500 rand per month.
Inflation was 6.4 percent in August, according to Statistics South Africa. - Bloomberg News