South Africa Gold Strike Delayed, Platinum Walkout Is On

South African gold producers including AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and Sibanye Gold Ltd. were granted a reprieve to Jan. 30 from a strike by about 20,000 workers that had been due to start tomorrow.

Judge Hamilton Cele delayed a ruling on whether the strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union would be regarded as “protected,” in a hearing at a labor court in Johannesburg today. When South African strikes have this status, workers can down tools without being fired or disciplined.

“There’s nothing we can do, we have to respect” the court’s decision, AMCU Treasurer Jimmy Gama said in an interview at the court.

The AMCU, which represents 19 percent of the country’s gold-mining employees, had planned to strike at sites where it is the majority union including Harmony Gold Mining Co.’s Kusasalethu, Sibanye’s Driefontein and AngloGold’s Mponeng. The union said its walkout at platinum producers including Anglo American Platinum Ltd. tomorrow will proceed as planned.

The AMCU will abide by whatever the court decides on Jan. 30, President Joseph Mathunjwa said in an interview after the court hearing today. “If the judge rules against, we will abide,” he said. “You can’t let your workers go unprotected.”

The court delay is a partial setback for the AMCU, which had planned to stage concurrent strikes across the gold and platinum companies in a bid to force through the monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,150) it seeks for entry-level workers in both industries. The demand by the AMCU is more than double the current starting salary at both platinum and gold mines.

Not Advisable

“We have to make AMCU understand that it’s not advisable for them to go on this course of action,” AngloGold Chairman Tito Mboweni said today in an interview with Bloomberg TV Africa in Davos, Switzerland. “We cannot afford this at this stage.”

A two-day strike in September by the National Union of Mineworkers, which represents two-thirds of the industry’s 107,000 gold miners, cost companies mining the metal as much as 349 million rand a day in sales, according to the Chamber of Mines.

The judge’s decision means it will be “business as usual” at the gold mines until Jan. 30, Elize Strydom, chief negotiator at the country’s Chamber of Mines, said at the court.

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