Johannesburg - Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) faces a legal challenge and strikes over plans to fire 3 300 workers as three unions say the biggest producer of the metal is reneging on its promises to save jobs.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) would go to court to try to halt job cuts at the company’s South African mines, union spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said yesterday.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), representing 54 percent of employees, had given the company notice it would strike from Friday, Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said on Tuesday.
“They have departed from the numbers we settled on,” Seshoka said. “We never agreed on the 3 300.”
He added that a hurdle to NUM’s plan to launch an urgent interdict to prevent job losses at Amplats had been the unavailability of a judge to hear the matter yesterday.
Platinum companies in South Africa, which has the largest known reserves, are seeking to curb costs after prices fell and strikes last year won employees above-inflation wage gains.
Amplats first proposed cutting 14 000 staff, before lowering the figure to 6 000, and last month reducing it to 3 300. A further 900 jobs at head office would be cut, it said.
The proposals prompted Uasa to declare a dispute at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, said Franz Stehring, the union’s head of mining.
Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole was not available to comment on the NUM and Uasa action but confirmed the firm had received Amcu’s strike notice on Tuesday.
Amplats had agreed that at least 2 000 of the 3 300 job cuts would be through attrition, or not replacing staff who left, Stehring said.
The Uasa dispute would be heard on October 4, he said.
Affected workers had been given notice at the beginning of this month and would leave at the end of the month, he added.
Amcu wanted the company to accept more early retirement offers and move workers to operations of parent Anglo American, which owns nearly 80 percent of Amplats, Gama said.
The company’s Rustenburg-based operations in North West were losing more than R1 billion every six months, chief executive Chris Griffith said on August 30.
Amplats plans to consolidate five mines with nine shaft systems into three operating mines and reduce annual production by 350 000 ounces. Output in 2012 was 2.22 million ounces. – Bloomberg
Additional reporting by Dineo Faku