HomeNewsImplats may sack thousands

Implats may sack thousands

The Impala Platinum
headgear in the sunset
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 28 August 2009 – South Africa’s Impala Platinum has warned that it could sack thousands of striking workers, thereby escalating a wage dispute that miners have threatened to spread to all the company’s operations.

The strike has already widened, and was partially affecting output at the Marula mine. “The strike has partially affected Marula since last night’s shift, some people decided not to go to work and production will be affected,” Implats spokesman Bob Gilmour told Reuters.

The world’s No. 2 platinum miner said it could not bow to union demands for a 14% pay rise “’ more than double inflation “’ after reporting that earnings had halved in the year to June and overall costs had risen by more than a third.

“You have to draw a line in the sand,” said Implats chief executive David Brown. “The strike is reducing output and cash flow, and it puts pressure on the company. We reserve the right to mass dismissals, it is one of the options we have.”

South Africa produces four-fifths of the world’s platinum, and Implats alone supplies 25% of the precious metal, mainly from its South African operations and mines in Zimbabwe.

The strike at Implats threatens to hurt investor confidence in a sector hard hit by the financial crisis, but has so far had little effect on the price of the metal, used in jewellery and in catalytic converters.

Brown said Implats could not continue to lose production and cash indefinitely, and urged the workers to accept the company’s latest pay offer.

“The company cannot sustain a prolonged strike because it has little inventory of mined ore,” Brown explained, “and it is costing Implats 3 500 ounces of platinum daily.”

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was not fazed by the threat of sacking workers, because it had served a legal notice on Implats after failure to agree on wages.

“He can’t fire them, the strike is protected by law,” said NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka. He said workers, who get about R3 500 a month, would not normally be paid during a strike.

Brown said the strike was so far confined to its Rustenburg mine “’ the company’s biggest “’ where more than 20 000 workers went on strike on Monday night, but he pointed out that it was possible the union could carry out a threat of a company-wide strike.

Pay talks broke down after the NUM “’ South Africa’s biggest mineworkers’ union — rejected the company’s offer of a 10% raise. Besides demanding a 14% pay increase, NUM also wants transport and housing allowances.

Aquarius Platinum “’ the world’s fourth-largest platinum producer “’ has dismissed 3 900 contract workers at two of its South African mines as a result of an "unprotected industrial action".

But the threat of a sector-wide strike receded after the NUM said workers at Anglo Platinum “’ the world’s largest platinum producer “’ were likely to accept the group’s latest pay deal.