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Platinum Producers Postpone South Africa Pay-Strike Talks

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Talks to end a strike over pay that has crippled production at the world’s largest platinum mines have been postponed until later this week after the companies requested more time.

Discussions set to start tomorrow between the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, and negotiators for Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc, will now resume Feb. 13, the mediator said in a statement. Talks between the companies and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union were suspended on Feb. 5 without reaching a settlement to end the strike.

The mediation process between employers and the AMCU continues “with parties willing to engage with the process,” the CCMA said. It will meet the AMCU on Feb. 14, after a day of talks with the three companies.

The union has called out more than 70,000 workers on a strike that has cost employers about $18 million a day since Jan. 23, demanding that monthly wages for the lowest-paid underground workers be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,130). South Africa accounts for about 70 percent of global output of the metal, used in jewelry and catalytic converters for vehicles.

The companies offered increases of as much as 9 percent for workers who are currently paid 5,000 rand to 6,000 rand a month, excluding benefits. South Africa’s annual rate of inflation was 5.4 percent in December.

The CCMA last week proposed that employers raise pay to 12,500 rand a month within three years, AMCU leader Joseph Mathunjwa said Feb. 8 in Johannesburg.

Policeman Arrested

“We were amazed that the employers rejected the CCMA recommendation and stuck to their 9 percent,” Mathunjwa said. “This made discussions on a possible settlement difficult and left AMCU with no option but to continue with strike action.”

Anglo American Platinum’s Union mine in the northern Limpopo province is calm after an AMCU official was shot there on Feb. 7 in a clash between striking workers and police, Ronel Otto, a police spokeswoman, said today by phone. No incidents were reported during the weekend.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate said today it has arrested an officer for the killing of the AMCU member, 32-year-old Shadow Ncedani.

The officer allegedly “fired shots at the protesters with an R5-rifle, killing the deceased instantly on the scene,” the directorate said in a statement posted on its website. The 47-year-old policeman is appearing in court today on a charge of murder, it said.

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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