South Africa platinum workers to strike over pay

Striking miners dance and cheer after they were informed of a wage increase offer by Lonmin on 18 September 2012 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption South Africa's mining sector has a troubled history of industrial relations

The biggest union in South Africa's platinum sector calls a strike over pay, potentially, halting production at the world's top three producers.

Amcu says its 70,000 members will go on an indefinite strike, starting on Thursday.

It is demanding a "living wage" of 12,500 rand ($1,150; £700) - more than double their current pay.

Mining companies have said they cannot afford the increases due to increasing production costs and stagnated demand.

Finance Minister Pravin Ghordan has called on both sides to work together to avert another strike.

"We can least afford another round of strikes that will act as a destabilisation to the platinum sector which has had increasing difficulties over the last 18 months," he said in a radio interview with the state broadcaster's SAFM.

The three platinum companies, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum and Lonmin Platinum, have confirmed receiving official notices of the strike action from Amcu.


Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin have scheduled meetings with the union in a bid to reach an agreement before Thursday, local reports say.

"The negotiations are ongoing. They [Amcu] stated they intend to go on strike on Thursday morning, so we shall wait and see what happens," said Lonmin's Sue Vey, reports Sapa news agency.

If the strike goes ahead, this would be the most severe labour turmoil since 44 people died during a strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in 2012, says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

The parties have been negotiating a settlement through the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) since late last year, it is understood.

The CCMA last week issue a certificate of "non-resolution" to the union after talks deadlocked, giving the union the go-ahead it needed to call a strike.

Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said they met with the three companies after receiving the CCMA certificate but the meetings "did not have a positive outcome".

"We have consulted our members, and unfortunately this is the next step that is to be taken," Sapa news agency quotes him saying.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) replaced the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as the biggest union in the platinum sector during the Marikana protests.

Mineworkers criticised NUM, which is affiliated to the governing African National Congress, of being too friendly with business.

As President Jacob Zuma and the ANC prepare for elections due in April, he cannot afford the negative publicity this strike would bring, our correspondent says.

The party was sharply criticised for not doing enough to prevent the "Marikana massacre" .

South Africa holds about 80% of the world's known platinum reserves and is the fourth-biggest gold exporter.

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