Biggest Union at Amplats Gets Permission to Strike

The largest union at Anglo American Platinum Ltd.’s South African mines got permission to strike after a mediator failed to resolve a wage deadlock between the labor group and the world’s biggest producer of the metal.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration yesterday issued a certificate of non-resolution over the dispute after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union rejected a pay-increase offer of 7 percent for the year through June, AMCU National Treasurer Jimmy Gama said by phone.

“We’ll have a meeting with our members in a week or two” to decide on a possible strike, Gama said. The CCMA permit allows the AMCU’s members to stop work within 48 hours of giving the company notice.

The AMCU usurped the National Union of Mineworkers in the past year as the biggest representative of employees at the world’s three largest platinum producers, which mine most of their metal in South Africa. The nation has the biggest known reserves of the metal. The AMCU is demanding basic monthly wages for the lowest paid underground workers be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,208). The country’s annual inflation rate was 6 percent in September.

Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for Amplats, as the Johannesburg-based company is known, confirmed by text message that the parties were issued the non-resolution certificate.

Impala Talks

The CCMA assigned the AMCU and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the second-largest producer of the metal, a similar permit on Oct. 23. The union has yet to set a date for the stoppage.

The AMCU on Nov. 12 cut its wage-increase demand at Impala by 31 percent to 8,668 rand as the parties worked toward avoiding a possible strike, Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala, said by phone yesterday. Impala has increased the offer to the lowest-paid below-surface miners by 0.5 percentage point to 8.5 percent for the first year of the three-year deal, Theron said. They currently earn 5,500 rand.

“We are closer, but still far from one another,” Theron said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The parties undertook to consult with their principals and meet again.”

The lower demand was conditional on Impala’s acceptance of it, the AMCU’s Gama said today by phone.

“We have given Impala a settlement proposal,” Gama said. “If they don’t accept we’ll go back to 12,500” rand.

Wage talks between the AMCU and Lonmin Plc, the third-largest platinum producer, continued today, Gama said.

Northam Strike

Northam Platinum Ltd., operator of the world’s deepest platinum mine, and the National Union of Mineworkers will attend a meeting called by the CCMA tomorrow about an ongoing strike at the company, Ecliff Tantsi, the NUM’s chief negotiator at Northam, said by phone.

The union called a wage strike on Nov. 3 and rejected a revised offer to increase pay by as much as 9 percent on Nov. 7.

“The current offer is the maximum the company can afford,” Northam said in a statement yesterday. “The longer the mine stands, the less affordable the offer becomes.”

Amplats’s Mogalakwena mine in the northern Limpopo province was calm today after security staff yesterday broke up a group of protesters who were demanding jobs and destroying mine property, Sithole said by phone.

Amplats’ shares rose for the first time in five days, climbing 0.4 percent to 418 rand by the close in Johannesburg. Impala increased 0.5 percent to 130.90 rand, while Northam slipped 0.8 percent to 40.67 rand. The spot price of platinum advanced 0.8 percent to $1,448.20 an ounce.

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