Johannesburg - A strike over pay by at least 70,000 workers in South Africa at the world’s biggest platinum mines started on today’s early shift.
Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union at Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc, the three largest producers, haven’t clocked in for duty, AMCU Treasurer Jimmy Gama said by phone.
The strike by the AMCU will disrupt operations accounting for about 70 percent of global output of the precious metal.
The union says it will maintain the walkout until its demand that wages for the lowest-paid entry-level miners are more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,150) a month is met.
South Africa’s inflation rate was 5.4 percent in December.
“People haven’t reported for work” and some miners who want to report for duty are getting stopped by those taking part in the strike, Johan Theron, a spokesman for Implats, the second-largest producer of the metal, said by phone.
At Implats, striking employees wielding traditional weapons have blocked roads leading to operations, Sydwell Dokolwana, the National Union of Mineworkers’ regional secretary, said by phone.
The AMCU has displaced the NUM as the biggest labor representative on platinum mines.
Workers at Lonmin have been able to report for duty, he said.
The police service has raised safety measures as it seeks to avoid a repeat of labor unrest that claimed the lives of at least 44 workers in the area, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, in August 2012.
“We’ve increased our visibility across the area,” Thulani Ngubane, a spokesman for the South African Police Service in the North West province, said by phone.
No incidents have been reported and picketing is planned at some of the shafts, he said.
“Everything is in place to make sure the strike is peaceful,” Ngubane said.
Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey confirmed the start of the strike at the company’s operations when contacted by phone. Anglo American Platinum spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole declined to comment.
The spot price of platinum, used in jewellry and catalytic converters that reduce harmful emissions from passenger cars, fell 0.4 percent to $1,451.75 an ounce at 1:43 p.m. in Singapore, paring the gain this year to 5.9 percent.
South Africa’s rand declined 0.2 percent to 10.8993 per dollar, extending the drop this year to 3.7 percent.
The AMCU’s plan to start a strike at South African gold mines today was delayed after the Johannesburg Labour Court postponed its ruling on whether the stoppage would be protected to January 30.
When South African strikes have this status, workers can down tools without being fired or disciplined.
“We haven’t had feedback from everywhere, but from what we know everything looks normal,” Alan Fine, a spokesman for the Johannesburg-based Chamber of Mines at Russell & Associates, which represents the gold companies, said by phone.
A gold strike by the AMCU would affect AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.’s operations, Harmony Gold Mining Co.’s Kusasalethu and Masimong mines, and Sibanye Gold Ltd.’s Driefontein. - Bloomberg News