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Lonmin Union Gets Permission to Strike Over Miners’ Wages

The largest union at Lonmin Plc (LMI)’s South African mines got permission to strike after a mediator failed to resolve a deadlock over wages between the labor group and the world’s third-biggest producer of the metal.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration yesterday issued a certificate of non-resolution over the dispute after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union rejected Lonmin’s wage-increase proposals for the year through September, AMCU National Treasurer Jimmy Gama said by phone. The certificate allows workers to strike without the risk of dismissal from their jobs.

“Whether a strike will happen depends on what our members say,” Gama said. The CCMA permit allows the AMCU’s members to stop work within 48 hours of giving the company notice. A decision on a strike would only be made next year, Gama said.

The AMCU usurped the National Union of Mineworkers in the past year as the biggest representative of employees at the world’s three largest platinum producers. The union is demanding that basic monthly wages for the lowest paid underground workers be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,211). South Africa’s annual inflation rate was 5.5 percent in October.

Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for Lonmin, declined to comment.

The AMCU has already received permission to strike at Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS), the largest producer, and Impala. The union’s members on Oct. 28 voted to strike at Impala, without setting a date. Impala and AMCU will again meet for talks on Dec. 12 after the union lowered its demand for a basic monthly wage to 8,668 rand on Nov. 12.

Revised Deal

The producer that day revised its offer for the lowest-paid below-surface workers to an increase of 8.5 percent for the first year of a three-year deal. Impala employees currently earn 5,500 rand per month, excluding benefits.

The AMCU will ask members to decide on a possible strike at Anglo Platinum once they return in January from a two-week break, Gama said Nov. 26. Amplats has offered increases of 7 percent.

A strike led by the NUM at Northam Platinum Ltd. (NHM), owner of the world’s deepest platinum mine, remains unresolved, the union’s chief negotiator, Ecliff Tantsi, said yesterday by phone. The strike started Nov. 3.

Lonmin was disrupted by a six-week, unauthorized strike last year, during which at least 44 miners died, including 34 killed by police in a single day near the company’s Marikana mine in August 2012.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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