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Topics: Labor Unions

Amplats majority union votes for strike to hobble South African platinum mines

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Labor unions,Labor,Bloomberg News,Mining,South Africa

The South African labor union representing the majority of workers at Anglo American Platinum voted to strike over wages at the world's largest producer of the metal, adding to walkouts planned at Impala Platinum Holdings and Lonmin.

“Tomorrow they’re going to be served with the notice, as per the mandate,” Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, told reporters after addressing thousands of members at a stadium near Rustenburg, about 75 miles northwest of Johannesburg.

AMCU workers agreed to start a strike at Amplats with a show of raised fists at Sunday's meeting. The strike will start on the first shift Jan. 23, Mathunjwa said, referring to Anglo American Platinum, Impala and Lonmin. He also said gold companies where the AMCU has members will be served with strike notices tomorrow.

The union, which makes up more than 60 percent of the workforce at the Anglo American unit, received a mandate to strike at Impala and Lonmin, the second- and third-largest producers, after holding earlier meetings with their membership at the companies. UASA and the National Union of Mineworkers accepted Amplats’ offer to raise wages as much as 8.5 percent, leaving the AMCU holding out for a better deal.

The union maintains its demand of an entry-level monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,150) a month. “We cannot just fold our hands and see this exploitation taking its course generation to generation,” Mathunjwa told reporters on Jan. 15 in Johannesburg.

The NUM accepted a wage deal from Northam Platinum on Jan. 17 after a two-month strike at its Zondereinde mine. Its members agreed to increases of as much as 9.5 percent and a bonus in monthly installments.

“The target has now been set and AMCU will push Amplats, Impala and Lonmin to better it,” Michael Kavanagh, a Noah Capital Markets analyst in Cape Town, said in a Jan. 17 e-mail.

South Africa accounted for 73 percent of global primary platinum production in 2012, when the industry employed 198,000 people, according to the Chamber of Mines' website. Platinum, palladium and rhodium made up 23 percent of the mining exports from the continent's largest economy that year.

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