Last effort by minister to end strike

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AmcuHeadGear Reuters.

Johannesburg - The world’s three largest platinum producers and the dominant union at their local mines are nearing an end to negotiations led by the government to resolve the country’s longest mining strike.

Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi set up a task team last month within days of him starting the job.

“I’m convinced that we have done enough work,” Ramatlhodi said of government efforts at a June 7 press conference.

He said today would be the last government-led meeting to resolve the impasse.

The strike by more than 70,000 Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union members at mines of Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin started January 23.

It cut mining’s contribution to the economy by the most in 47 years in the first quarter, prompting the first contraction in gross domestic product since a 2009 recession.

“Companies will be represented at a very senior level, including chief executives” at today’s meeting, Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the producers, said in an e-mail.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa didn’t answer a call seeking comment.

Repeated previous sets of talks have failed to engineer a breakthrough in the dispute.

Negotiations between the sides crumbled under meditation by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

Later bilateral meetings resulted in the companies ending discussions and putting a pay offer directly to employees, a move that the union sought to block in unsuccessful legal action.

Labour Court Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker also took the unusual step of mediating company-union talks.

Ramatlhodi has pointed to some progress toward an agreement during the latest government-led talks.

“There has been movement from all sides,” he said last week.

Union members are on strike over a demand for basic monthly pay excluding benefits for entry-level underground employees to be more than doubled to 12,500 rand by 2017.

The producers have said increases of that order would cost too much.

The stoppage by workers in the country with the biggest reserves of the metal has cost the producers 21.7 billion rand in lost revenue and miners 9.6 billion rand in earnings, the companies estimate. - Bloomberg News



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