Job losses loom amid platinum strike

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AmcuStrikeAllGreen Independent Media. Picture: Timothy Bernard.

Johannesburg - Job cuts at Impala Platinum (Implats) were imminent as the strike that has crippled the platinum belt continued into its tenth week, the second-largest platinum producer said yesterday.

At the same time, talks at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration’s (CCMA) that collapsed three weeks ago have been resuscitated. The CCMA held a meeting with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) last Tuesday and met employers yesterday.

However, no face-to-face meetings between employers and employees have been scheduled. The parties have remained far apart, with Amcu expected to hand over a memorandum to Lonmin at its head offices in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg on Thursday. This follows a similar march to Implats’s head office last week.

“We are constantly reviewing our financial and operating viability in the current strike situation,” Implats executive Johan Theron said yesterday. “However, it is clear that a prolonged strike will ultimately result in mine closures and job losses. If the strike continues in the months ahead, we will unfortunately be forced to apply for a section 189 process.”

Employers are required by section 189 of the Labour Relations Act to give notice to trade unions before retrenching staff or downscaling operations.

This comes after Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) chief executive Chris Griffith announced on Friday that the biggest platinum producer would start section 189 talks with unions shortly. He added that Amplats was considering closing its Rustenburg operation, which was unlikely to make a profit this year because of the strike.

Last year Amplats retrenched 7 500 people in restructuring at its Rustenburg operation.

Asked when Implats would start the talks, Theron said: “It depends on how workplaces become more difficult to restart and also how the dispute is resolved.” He added: “It is safe to say that we are entering a period where damages are becoming irreparable and such job losses are becoming reality.”

Jimmy Gama, Amcu’s national treasurer, said the union would “follow the law” once companies embarked on section 189 talks.

On Friday negotiating forum Nedlac refused Amcu’s request for union members at gold and coal mines to join the protest in the platinum sector.

“We don’t understand why they rejected the request. We have written a letter explaining our concerns,” Gama said.

“As the platinum sector, we will continue with marches to hand over petitions to institutions like the JSE.”

The strike has cost platinum majors more than R10 billion in revenue and employees have lost over R4.4bn in wages.

Implats shares rose 0.26 percent to close at R120 yesterday.



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