Biggest Platinum Companies Meet Union Heads to End Labor Unrest

The chief executive officers of the world’s biggest platinum companies and leaders of other South African mines met with heads of unions and the deputy president to try restore peace in the industry following violent unrest.

The government is trying to defuse union rivalry that has led to three worker deaths since May at shafts owned by Lonmin Plc (LMI), the third-biggest platinum producer. This followed the killings of at least 44 people, including 34 shot by police in one day, near Lonmin’s operations in the country last year.

“Every problem that is identified by stakeholders is tackled and resolved,” Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said in a speech before the meeting in Pretoria, the capital. “We start off with areas that admit to immediate solutions. Those problems that may admit to long-term solutions, we commit to tackling them.”

Conflict has surrounded competition between the National Union of Mineworkers, an ally of the ruling African National Congress, and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. The AMCU is now the biggest representative of employees at the world’s three largest platinum companies, all of which have the bulk of their operations in South Africa.

Mining strikes last year caused almost 15 billion rand ($1.5 billion) in lost output and shaved about 0.5 percentage point off gross domestic product, according to government figures. Unrest has cut a further 0.3 percentage point off growth this year, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday.

The AMCU yesterday delayed its plan to start a strike over organizational rights at Lonmin to participate in today’s talks. AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa was present, as was Lonmin Acting CEO Simon Scott and leaders of the Chamber of Mines.

“We have done this in order to assure the nation and whole world of our holistic commitments towards good industrial relationship at the workplace,” the union said in an e-mailed statement.

Gold and coal companies, working through the chamber, are due to start wage negotiations with unions in the middle of this month. The NUM has asked for employees who operate at the surface of mines to be increased by as much as 61 percent, and for gains of 15 percent in other worker categories.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andre Janse van Vuuren in Johannesburg at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at

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