Union Starts Strike at Sibanye Platinum Mine in South Africa

  • Solidarity says strike started before expiration of notice
  • Sibanye approaching court to stop labor action, spokesman says

The biggest union in South Africa’s platinum industry started a strike at a platinum mine Sibanye Gold Ltd. bought last month over transport, bonuses and safety pay.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union commenced the stoppage Thursday at Kroondal in Rustenburg, 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, the labor organization said. Sibanye acquired the operation through its purchase of Aquarius Platinum Ltd. for about $294 million, with the transaction finalized in April.

“The strike is about traveling allowances, management not providing transport, safety bonuses, drilling allowances and risk allowances,” AMCU spokesman Manzini Zungu said in a text message. “Management rejected their demands regarding the above and they have engaged with them since January this year.”

The AMCU is in the process of preparing wage demands for top platinum producers in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer of the metal, before a two-year agreement ends next month. The last deal was signed after a five-month strike, the longest in the country’s mining history.

Court Order

Sibanye received a court order declaring the strike “unlawful and unprotected,” according to a statement from spokesman James Wellsted. As a result, AMCU is required to suspend any strike action by its members, the company said.

The strike commenced before the end of a 48-hour notice of the action, making it an unprotected strike where workers who participate can be fired, Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of rival trade union Solidarity, said in an e-mailed statement.

Kroondal was Aquarius’s largest mine, produces about 100,000 ounces quarterly. It’s close to operations that Sibanye is in the process of buying from Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world’s largest producer.

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