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Impala Workers Vote for Strike at Biggest Platinum Mine

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the largest labor group at Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.’s South African operations, said its members voted to go on strike at the world’s biggest platinum mine.

Workers made the decision at a union meeting yesterday near Rustenburg in North West province, AMCU Treasurer Jimmy Gama said by phone. The timing of a strike isn’t decided, he said. Impala accounts for about 25 percent of global platinum supply.

The AMCU is demanding basic monthly wages for underground workers of 12,500 rand ($1,275) from the three largest South African platinum producers, where it has usurped the National Union of Mineworkers as the dominant labor representative. The companies’ profit margins have declined after prices fell and costs increased.

Implats, as the second-biggest platinum producer is known, hasn’t received a strike notice from the AMCU and is “hopeful that talks will continue and that we could still avert the strike,” Johan Theron, a company spokesman, said today by phone. “Further strike action in the industry is clearly not in the interest of the country, employees and employers.”

Implats shares fell 0.1 percent to close at 123.75 rand in Johannesburg.

Rejected Offer

The AMCU rejected a pay offer of 8 percent for the year through June, Theron said Oct. 24. South Africa’s inflation rate was 6 percent in September.

Implats offered to increase pay by 7 percent in the second and third years of the proposed agreement, Theron said. That would increase the total monthly remuneration of entry-level underground workers to 10,756 rand by the end of the cycle, with the cash portion accounting for about 7,000 rand.

“We have a direct relationship with our employees and duty to also communicate our wage offer and financial position to them,” Theron said.

The union is also in wage negotiations with Anglo American Platinum Ltd., or Amplats, and Lonmin Plc.

Amplats has received confirmation that the AMCU referred its wage dispute with the company to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for the world’s biggest platinum producer, said by e-mail. “We are awaiting a date from the CCMA for the meeting of the parties,” she said.

Lonmin, the third-largest, began pay talks with the AMCU earlier this month, said Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for the company. “Our negotiations started Oct. 1 and are progressing,” she said in a text message today.

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