Platinum miners’ pay offer falls short

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Reuters.

A member of the South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) holds placards as he attends a rally in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg January 19, 2014.

Johannesburg - Platinum’s biggest producers offered striking South African mineworkers a series of pay increases spread over three years that the union leading the walkout said fails to meet demands.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union will put the proposal to its members at Anglo American Platinum Plc, Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc and “will get a mandate from them whether they accept the offer or not,” Jimmy Gama, the labour group’s treasurer, said after talks with the companies in Pretoria yesterday.

South Africa’s platinum industry, which accounts for almost three-fourths of global production, is losing an estimated $18 million daily, while employees are forgoing about $8 million in wages, the companies said.

At least 70,000 AMCU members have been on strike since January 23.

The platinum producers offered to raise total pay by as much as 9 percent in the first year, 8 percent in the second and 7.5 percent in the third, they said in a joint statement.

The AMCU walked out over its pay demands, including a call for 12,500 rand a month for entry-level workers, more than double current pay levels.

“How can you be satisfied with an offer that does not address the living wage?” Gama told reporters in the South African capital.

Union’s officials at the various mining shafts will today give members feedback on the offer, Jeffrey Mphahlele, AMCU’s general secretary, said today by phone.

Talks ‘Cordial’

The talks between the union and the companies, facilitated by the government through the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, are “cordial,” Gama said.

The sides agreed to meet again on January 31, he said.

“The offer was based on a set of principles aimed at taking our sector on a journey towards the goal of a 12,500-rand monthly pay package, but in a manner that is affordable and sustainable to the industry,” Anglo American Platinum chief executive Chris Griffith said in the statement.

“Given our situation, this can be achieved only by means of a multi-year agreement based on total guaranteed pay. A 12,500 rand basic wage is simply not feasible in the foreseeable future.”

Northam Agreement

The National Union of Mineworkers, which AMCU overtook as a majority union at the three largest platinum producers, signed a two-year deal January 21 to end a two-month strike at Northam Platinum Ltd. that included wage increases of as much as 9.5 percent.

Police yesterday dispersed a group of about 30 striking workers who were blocking traffic and preventing employees from reporting for duty at Nkaneng, close to Anglo American Platinum’s Khuseleka shaft in the Rustenburg area, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

Four rubber bullets were shot and no one was injured, the police said in a statement.

A Johannesburg labour court will rule today whether the strike the AMCU plans at some of South Africa’s gold mines would be classified as protected, which means that workers can down tools without being fired or disciplined.

The planned walkout by members of AMCU, which represents 19 percent of the country’s gold-mining employees, would affect AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.’s South African operations, Harmony Gold Mining Co.’s Kusasalethu and Masimong mines, and Sibanye Gold Ltd.’s Driefontein.

The Chamber of Mines, representing the producers, brought the application to the court last week. - Bloomberg News


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