Amplats to Negotiate Wages at Same Time as Talks on Job Cuts

Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world’s biggest producer of the metal, said it will start wage negotiations with labor unions in South Africa in August.

The talks will run at the same time as those about the company’s plans to eliminate 6,000 jobs at mines to help return to profit, Thabisile Phumo, a spokeswoman for the Johannesburg-based company known as Amplats, said in an e-mailed response to questions. The talks about the positions started on June 10 and will end on Aug. 10, she said.

“We expect to run a parallel process,” Phumo said. The company has received wage demands from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the biggest representative of employees at its South African mines at 41 percent. Amplats has asked other unions to do the same, she said.

Producers in South Africa, which has the biggest known reserves of the metal, are struggling with higher costs as strikes drive above-inflation wage increases at a time of waning platinum demand and prices. More than half of the nation’s gold and platinum operations are running at a loss, the Chamber of Mines said today. Amplats’ job cuts form part of its plans to idle three shafts and reduce annual output by 350,000 ounces of metal.

The AMCU wants an entry-level basic wage for underground workers of 12,500 rand ($1,260.50), according to a copy of wage demands sent to the platinum producer yesterday.

Impala Platinum

Trade union UASA wants negotiations on job reductions to be concluded before wage talks start, Franz Stehring, the organization’s head of mining, said by phone. “You don’t want to be in a place where you negotiate wages with jobs cuts hanging over your head,” he said.

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the second biggest producer of the metal, said it was close to signing a recognition deal with AMCU as the new majority union at its South African mines.

“We have made significant progress on recognition with AMCU,” the Johannesburg-based company’s head of personnel, Johan Theron, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The union’s president, Joseph Mathunjwa, said it was close to a deal with Implats, as the producer is known.

“It’s getting there,” he said in a phone interview.

Implats has so far received wage demands from the National Union of Mineworkers for employees at its refineries in Springs, east of Johannesburg. The company would prefer to complete a recognition agreement with the AMCU before holding salary negotiations, Theron said.

Implats expects other unions to submit wage demands within the coming weeks, he said.

Amplats has fallen 34 percent in Johannesburg trading this year, while Implats has fallen by 42 percent.

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