Amplats Threatened by Court Action, Strike on S. Africa Job Cuts

Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS) faces a legal challenge and strikes over plans to fire 3,300 workers as three unions say the biggest producer of the metal is reneging on its promises on jobs.

The National Union of Mineworkers will go to court to try to halt job cuts at the company’s South African mines, NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said today. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, representing 54 percent of employees, gave the Johannesburg-based company notice it will strike on Sept. 27, AMCU Treasurer Jimmy Gama said yesterday.

“They have departed from the numbers we settled on,” Seshoka said. “We never agreed on the 3,300.”

Platinum companies in South Africa, which has the largest known reserves, are seeking to curb costs after prices fell and strikes last year led to above-inflation wage gains. Amplats, as Anglo American Platinum is known, first proposed cutting 14,000 staff, before lowering the figure to 6,000 and last month to 3,300. A further 900 head-office jobs will be cut, it said.

The proposals prompted the UASA labor group to declare a dispute at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, said Franz Stehring, the union’s head of mining.

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole wasn’t immediately available to comment on the NUM and UASA action when called by Bloomberg. She confirmed the AMCU strike notice yesterday.

Job Attrition

Amplats agreed that at least 2,000 of the 3,300 cuts would be through attrition, or not replacing staff who leave, Stehring said by phone. The UASA dispute will be heard Oct. 4, he said.

Affected workers were given notice at the beginning of September and will leave at the end of the month, he said.

The AMCU wants the company to accept more early retirement offers and move workers to operations within parent Anglo American Plc (AAL), Gama said yesterday.

The Rustenburg-based operations, in North West province, are losing more than 1 billion rand ($102 million) every six months, Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith said Aug. 30. Amplats plans to consolidate five mines with nine shaft systems into three operating mines and reduce annual production by 350,000 ounces. Output in 2012 was 2.22 million ounces.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andre Janse van Vuuren in Johannesburg at ajansevanvuu@bloomberg.net

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