South African
finance minister
Pravin Gordhan
Cape Town, South Africa — 22 May 2013 – South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan says that mining companies, the government and the labour unions need to end disputes that are halting mine operations and have pushed the rand to a four-year low to the dollar.

“This is going to require quite spectacular leadership from all sides, not just from the labour unions,” Gordhan said, reports Bloomberg News citing state-owned SAFM radio, after the world’s biggest platinum producer agreed to job talks. “It requires a shift, it requires bold leadership, it requires a give and take by everyone concerned, not in the interests of industry only, but also in the interests of the country.”

Companies in the country are struggling for profit as metal prices decline and costs outpace inflation, which was 5.9% last month. Union rivalry has led to the deaths of workers, disrupted mines and helped make the rand the worst performer among emerging-market currencies against the dollar this year. In the gold and coal industries, a union this week asked for wage increases of as much as 61% for entry-level miners.

“I expected demands to be steep but these demands are incredibly steep,” commented Elize Strydom, the chief negotiator for the Chamber of Mines.

Anglo American Platinum Limited will resume talks with unions and the government through a state mediator over job cuts on Friday May 24, after agreeing on steps to preserve employment, the minerals ministry said. On May 10, the company said it planned to eliminate about 6,000 jobs at mines in the nation, less than half the number proposed in January, as it seeks to idle three shafts and reduce annual platinum output by 350,000 ounces.

“Parties have agreed on measures and mitigation plans that will preserve jobs,” the Department of Mineral Resources said in an e-mailed statement. Talks with the CCMA will start later this week, it said.

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