Implats: Union wage talks to resume

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Independent Newspapers.

Picture: Boxer Ngwenya.

Johannesburg - South Africa's Impala Platinum, the world's second largest producer of the precious metal, said wage talks with the AMCU union remained deadlocked after the two sides met on Thursday, and negotiations would resume in 2014.

Company spokesman Johan Theron told Reuters they had not been “able to finalise and/or agree annual increases (but) agreed to continue with the process in the New Year.”

Officials from AMCU, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, were not immediately available for comment.

Under South African law, AMCU has the green light from a government mediator in the wage negotiations to launch strikes at Implats, the world's top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum, and the third largest, Lonmin.

But its members are unlikely to down tools just ahead of the Christmas holidays, when shafts typically close or work at reduced volumes and much of the mining labour force return to home villages far from the mines.

A simultaneous strike at all three top platinum companies would hit at least half of global production of the metal and could take out as much as two-thirds if Amplats' joint venture operations are also impacted.

The union has reduced its demands at Implats but is still seeking a minimum monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,200) for entry-level workers from Amplats and Lonmin - more than double current levels - saying it wants a “living wage.”

Companies say they cannot afford big pay hikes as they grapple with low prices and high costs which have made half of the industry's shafts unprofitable, according to analysts.

AMCU emerged as the dominant union on South Africa's platinum belt last year after it wrested tens of thousands of members from the once unchallenged National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in a violent turf war in which dozens of people were killed.

A wage strike at mid-tier producer Northam organised by NUM is almost six weeks old and shows no signs of ending.

The fact that NUM members are holding out there suggests that AMCU's rank and file, known for their militancy, may have the appetite for launching a stoppage in the new year. - Reuters

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