Amplats Faces Court Action, Strike Over S. Africa Job Cuts

Anglo American Platinum Ltd. faces a legal challenge and strikes over plans to fire 3,300 workers at its South African mines as three unions say the biggest producer of the metal is reneging on its promises on jobs.

The National Union of Mineworkers will go to court in an effort to halt the job cuts, said NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka.

“They have departed from the numbers we settled on,” Seshoka said by phone today. “We never agreed on the 3,300.”

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, representing 54 percent of employees, will meet Amplats tomorrow to try to avert a strike scheduled to start Sept. 27, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said today by phone.

Platinum companies in South Africa, which has the largest known reserves, are seeking to curb costs after prices fell and strikes last year led to above-inflation wage gains. Amplats, as Anglo American Platinum is known, first proposed cutting 14,000 staff, before lowering the figure to 6,000 and last month to 3,300. A further 900 head-office jobs will go, it said.

The proposals prompted the UASA labor group to declare a dispute at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, said Franz Stehring, the union’s head of mining.

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole wasn’t immediately able to comment on the NUM and UASA action when called by Bloomberg. She confirmed the AMCU strike notice yesterday.

Job Attrition

Amplats agreed that at least 2,000 of the 3,300 cuts would be through attrition, or not replacing staff who leave, Stehring said by phone. The UASA dispute will be heard Oct. 4, he said.

Affected workers were given notice at the beginning of September and will leave at the end of the month, he said.

The Rustenburg-based operations, in North West province, are losing more than 1 billion rand ($102 million) every six months, Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith said Aug. 30. Amplats plans to consolidate five mines with nine shaft systems into three operating mines and reduce annual production by 350,000 ounces. Output in 2012 was 2.22 million ounces.

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