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South Africa Union Starts Pay Strike at Northam Platinum

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A strike called by South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers at Northam Platinum Ltd. over wages continued into a second day as the company said it has proposed a meeting between the sides tomorrow.

“There has been no invitation from the company, but we’ll be ready to see them” for talks, Ecliff Tantsi, the union’s negotiator at Northam, said by phone today. The company’s management resolved, for safety purposes, not to allow production-related employees underground yesterday, Northam said in an e-mailed statement.

Northam’s Zondereinde operation, which has the world’s deepest platinum mine, was served with a strike notice after the latest wage offer of a 7 percent to 8 percent increase was rejected, the metals producer said. The NUM, which has more than 7,000 members at the company, demands an average raise of 61 percent, it said.

Northam “has moved on its offer twice, while the NUM has made no move at all,” Memory Johnstone, a spokeswoman for the company, said Nov. 1 in an e-mail.

The shares declined 2 percent to 40.35 rand by 2:51 p.m. in Johannesburg, the biggest drop among the six members of the FTSE/JSE Africa Platinum Mining Index today. Platinum rose 0.2 percent to $1,456.50 an ounce in London.

Output at the Zondereinde mine is estimated at 300,000 ounces a year, Northam said Sept. 30 in its annual report.

Tantsi said the strike started yesterday with the night shift and subsequent morning shift.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has also failed to reach an agreement over wages with Lonmin Plc, Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world’s three largest platinum producers. It is the biggest labor group at those companies.

A strike “could happen jointly” with other platinum companies, AMCU Treasurer Jimmy Gama said on Oct. 30.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Burkhardt in Johannesburg at pburkhardt@bloomberg.net

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

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