Union Starts Strike Over Wages at Impala Platinum Refinery

  • NUM union represents more than half of refinery’s employees
  • Five rounds of pay talks between company, union unsuccessful

Some members of a union representing more than half the worker’s at Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.’s refinery in South Africa started a strike Tuesday after talks over pay and benefits broke down.

About 500 workers at the plant are members of the National Union of Mineworkers, which began the strike after failing to reach a pay agreement following five rounds of talks with the world’s second-biggest platinum producer, the labor group said in an e-mailed statement.

The refinery, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Johannesburg, employs about 900 people, NUM Deputy Branch Secretary Mpho Mere said by phone. About 85 percent of employees reported for duty today and operations are normal, according to Impala spokesman Johan Theron. South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of platinum.

“We declared a dispute because we’re still far, far apart,” Mere said. In some wage categories at the refinery, the NUM is seeking a 9.5 percent increase, with the company offering 7.5 percent, he said. South Africa’s inflation rate was 5.9 percent in August.

Impala declined 5 percent to 64.65 rand by 12:43 p.m. in Johannesburg. The stock has still more than doubled this year.

Other Demands

Impala also isn’t close to meeting demands for higher housing, shift and standby allowances, and wants employees to use its in-house medical-insurance plan, which the union said undermines freedom of choice.

"We continue to engage and seek ways of trying to close the gap" in negotiations, Theron said.

The refinery raised production from mine-to-market operations by 11 percent to 628,600 ounces in the year ended June 30 from 12 months earlier, while refined output from third-party purchases and tolls climbed 32 percent to 182,900 ounces, it said in a Sept. 1 statement.

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