Johannesburg, South Africa — 10 May 2013 – Miners have vowed to halt operations at Anglo Platinum “’ the world’s biggest platinum producer “’ even if retrenchments are scaled back to 5,000 from the initial 14,000 previously announced, according to a worker affiliated with mining union AMCU.

Amplats planned to axe 14,000 jobs and mothball two mines to return to profit, but industry sources said the final plan would be pared back, with as few as 5,000 jobs cut and an announcement expected by today, reports Fin24, citing Reuters. Workers have signalled that they will launch protest strikes even if the job cuts fall far short of the initial target.

Militant labour leaders, who closed mines in the surrounds of Rustenburg for a day in January when the plans were first unveiled, have said even a scaled-back proposal to cut 5,000 or so jobs would be unacceptable.

“Obviously, we will not allow this to happen. If they close one operation, we have vowed among ourselves that all of these operations must stop,” said Evans Ramokga, an Amplats miner and activist associated with newcomer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

But AMCU leaders said in Johannesburg they would not endorse any illegal protest actions or strikes.

“We are not supporting anything like that. AMCU does not vouch for unprotected (illegal) industrial action,” said AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa.

Mathunjwa also told a media briefing that AMCU would submit its wage demands to individual platinum companies in two weeks’ time, but did not say what workers would push for.

The upcoming round of wage talks in the mining sector will be among the toughest ever as company margins shrink and prices fall while worker protests are on the rise, fuelled by the glaring income disparities.

Social tensions are running high after violence rooted in a labour turf war killed more than 50 people last year and sparked illegal strikes that hit production.

For Amplats, reining in costs and cutting production to such an extent that it lifts the price of platinum is absolutely crucial after it fell into a loss last year. It is also vital for Anglo American as it tries to turn around at a time when commodity prices are starting to slump.

Amcu emerged as the dominant union in the platinum shafts last year after a bloody tussle that saw it poach tens of thousands of members from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a key political ally of the ANC.

Amplats has been in talks with the government for months to hammer out a restructuring plan.

General elections are due next year, and for the ANC, the union war means it has lost tens of thousands of potential voters and their many dependents, as the NUM is a vehicle for campaigning and getting out the working class vote.

Source: Fin24. For more information, click here.