Numsa joins Amcu in platinum sector strike

By Andre Janse Van Vuuren Time of article published Feb 2, 2014

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Johannesburg - A strike that has crippled output at the biggest platinum mines will spread at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) after a second union told the company that its members would stop work at refineries and smelters.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) late on Friday notified the Anglo American unit that its members planned to walk out from Monday at the largest platinum producer, Numsa organiser Stephen Nhlapo said.

The union was demanding pay increases of as much as 10 percent for higher-skilled employees and a raise of at least R2 500 monthly for the lowest-paid employees, he said.

“If we want to close the wage gap, we have to talk about rand and cents,” Nhlapo, who is Numsa’s head of basic metals and energy, said on Friday. “Percentages won’t get us anywhere.”

The lowest-paid workers currently earned R5 000 to R6 000, excluding other benefits, he said.

Platinum mining has been curbed since the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) called its members on strike on January 23 at Amplats, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.

Amcu is dominant in platinum, with more than 70 000 members, and is demanding that basic wages be more than doubled to R12 500 a month.

“The will is strong” among Amcu strikers, Jimmy Gama, the group’s treasurer, said in Pretoria during a break in negotiations with the companies. “They can last six months, eight months, forever if the management is not listening.”

The inflation rate was 5.4 percent in December. The platinum industry was losing an estimated $18 million (R202m) daily from the strike, while employees were forgoing about $8m in wages, the three companies said last week.

Numsa was the largest union at Amplats’ refineries and smelters, with 1 800 members, Nhlapo said.

The facilities hadn’t been affected by Amcu’s strike, the company said on January 23.

Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for Amplats, confirmed receipt of Numsa’s strike notice when contacted by phone.

Amcu rejected a pay-increase offer of as much as 9 percent and would continue to strike, union president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Thursday. “The employer hasn’t demonstrated it is serious about our demands.”

Non-striking workers were barred from reporting for duty at some Impala shafts on Friday as demonstrators blocked roads, Franz Stehring, the head of mining at Uasa, a minority union, said on Friday.

Police dispersed the crowd, which was armed with fighting sticks and had put rocks on the road, Johan Theron, an Impala spokesman, said. Attendance had increased from 8 percent, on the first day of the strike, to as much as 20 percent, he said. “We’ve seen more people returning to work.”

Numsa had no scheduled talks with Amplats for the next few days, Nhlapo said.

“Amcu’s members rejected 9 percent; the chances are 99 percent that our members will reject it as well,” he said.

Amplats declined for the first time in four days, losing 3.75 percent to R442.71 by the close of trade on Friday in Johannesburg. – Bloomberg

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