Johannesburg, South Africa — 17 September 2012 – World number three platinum producer Lonmin “’ scheduled to resume talks this morning with its Marikana platinum mine strikers in South Africa who rejected a pay rise offer last week “’ insists that it cannot meet the workers’ demands, but has promised a new approach in labour relations.
Reuters quotes acting Lonmin chief executive Simon Scott as saying that the deaths of protesters at the mine “’ 34 of whom had been shot dead by police on 16 August “’ had been a ‘wake-up call’ for the company, which was committed to ending the five-week labour unrest in which a total of 45 people had been killed.
In an opinion piece published in the Sunday Times newspaper, Scott said Lonmin would improve discussions with strikers, although it could not afford to meet their higher wage demands.
“For Lonmin, the starting point is to acknowledge that our company must go through a process of self-reflection,” Scott said. “What I can promise is that we are committed to playing our part. We have had our wake-up call, as has the rest of South Africa.
“Clearly, one of the issues we need to reflect on is how we find balance between protecting the business and the jobs dependent upon it on the one hand, and how we respond with sensitivity to the complex situations that Lonmin is at the centre of,” he added.
On Friday workers at the mine dismissed the company’s offer as way below the R12,500 a month sought by members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which is challenging the influence of the more established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
The dispute at Marikana has been at the heart of unrest that has spread through the platinum sector in South Africa, the world’s top producer of the metal, rattling Africa’s biggest economy.
The rand fell 3% on Wednesday as the unrest engulfed Anglo American Platinum, the biggest platinum miner, and ripples began to reach the bond market.
On Friday police fired teargas and stun grenades to disperse another group of striking miners at an Aquarius Platinum plant.
Scott, who has been acting chief executive while Ian Farmer has been on sick leave since last month, reiterated the company’s position that a R12,500 monthly wage would put thousands of jobs at risk and challenge the viability of the business. “In stark financial terms, this would cost R2.3 billion,” he said.
The company is offering increases of between 9 and 21%.
The price of platinum has risen more than 20% since the Marikana shootings amid fears of disruption to supplies.
Even though the Lonmin wage offer was rejected, its shares rose 5.5% on Friday on the back of another jump in the platinum price, following the announcement of U.S. economic stimulus measures.
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.