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Amplats Union Delays Vote on Strike Over Pay to Next Year

Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Anglo American Platinum Ltd.’s main labor union in South Africa delayed a decision on a strike over pay at the world’s biggest producer of the metal until 2014.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union will ask members to decide on a possible strike once they return in January from a two-week break, Treasurer Jimmy Gama said today by phone. It got permission for a legal strike at the company, known as Amplats, two weeks ago after exhausting mediation.

The AMCU usurped the National Union of Mineworkers in the past year as the biggest representative of staff at the world’s three largest platinum miners, Amplats, Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc. The union is demanding a more than doubling of basic monthly wages for the lowest-paid underground workers to 12,500 rand ($1,234). Amplats has offered 7 percent. The three companies mine most of their metal in South Africa.

Mpumi Sithole, spokeswoman for Johannesburg-based Amplats, wasn’t immediately able to comment when contacted by phone. The AMCU, after considering calling a strike vote on Nov. 30 or Dec. 1, was unable to arrange a venue, according to Gama.

Amplats fell 1.2 percent to 386.51 rand by the Johannesburg close, erasing a gain of as much as 0.9 percent, after the union comments. Platinum for immediate delivery declined 0.6 percent to $1,377.75 an ounce after rising as much as 0.4 percent.

South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration on Nov. 13 gave the AMCU the right to call a strike at Amplats without its members risking dismissal.

Impala Platinum

Impala Platinum will meet with the AMCU on Dec. 12 in the latest effort to reach a settlement, Johan Theron, a spokesman for the company, said today by phone. The AMCU lowered its wage demand from Impala by 31 percent to 8,668 rand on Nov. 12.

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. They currently earn 5,500 rand.

“The meeting is a last-ditch attempt to get a settlement before Christmas,” Theron said. Workers would be entitled to salary increase pay backdated to July when the previous wage arrangement lapsed, he said. “If we can’t get an agreement before Christmas, we won’t be able to make those payments.” Impala’s operations close Dec. 20 and reopen Jan. 5, he said.

The AMCU and Lonmin will meet for mediation by the CCMA on Dec. 10, Gama said.

NUM members today marched to the office of Northam Platinum Ltd., a smaller producer, as a work stoppage over pay entered a fourth week. The NUM has been striking since Nov. 3 and rejected wage increase offers of between 8 percent and 9 percent.

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

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