Part of Amplats’
Rustenburg mining
Rustenburg, South Africa — 27 September 2013 – Anglo American Platinum Limited (Amplats) mines have come to a halt as workers started a strike in protest against the 3,300 planned job cuts at the South African operations of the world’s largest producer of the precious metal.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the biggest union at Anglo Platinum, downed tools at the start of today’s morning shift, union treasurer Jimmy Gama told Bloomberg News by telephone.

The AMCU is challenging last month’s decision by the Johannesburg-based company to consolidate five mines into three at its Rustenburg complex to curb costs. The mines are losing more than R1 billion (US$100 million) every six months, CEO Chris Griffith revealed recently. Amplats produces as much as 40% of world supply.  

Workers not affiliated with AMCU were also affected. While minority union UASA isn’t striking, “there is very little other workers can do without AMCU’s members,” said Franz Stehring, head of mining at UASA. Amplats’ operations near Rustenburg in the North West province have come to a standstill, he added.

Amplats fell as much as 1.9% to R431.52 in Johannesburg trading, the lowest in more than a week. The stock was at R436.95 as of 1:03 p.m. local time.

“Downsizing the workforce is unfortunately necessary for the survival of the business and for ensuring a secure future for the remaining 45,000 employees,” Mpumi Sithole, a company spokeswoman, explained in an e-mailed statement.
In separate talks held yesterday, Amplats offered workers wage increases of 6%, UASA’s Stehring said. AMCU rejected the offer and declared a deadlock with management, he added.

“The company was not attending to our demand for a living wage,” Gama said. The union wants entry-level pay more than doubled to R12 500 rand a month. Inflation was 6.4% in August, according to Statistics South Africa.

Amplats’ Sithole today refused to comment on the wage talks with AMCU, saying only that “the outcome of the negotiations will be communicated at the conclusion of the negotiations.”
Caption, Pic 1: Part of Amplats’ Rustenburg mining operations.

Source: Bloomberg News. For more information, click here.