South Africa's Amplats takes action against strikers

Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:19pm EDT
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By Agnieszka Flak

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (Reuters) - The world's top platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, began disciplinary action against illegal strikers on Thursday and rival Impala Platinum offered workers a pay rise as the South African mining industry struggles to end weeks of labor unrest.

A wave of wildcat strikes is disrupting South Africa's mining sector despite the end of an illegal six-week stoppage at another platinum producer, Lonmin, in which 46 people were killed.

In a bid to avert a strike, Impala Platinum offered a "pay adjustment" to workers demanding an increase, saying it would add almost five percent to its wage bill.

An illegal stoppage at Implats would have brought the labor unrest full circle this year as its Rustenburg operation, the world's largest platinum mine, was brought to a halt for 6 weeks in January and February amid a bloody union turf war between the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

There was a heavy police presence in the area Thursday afternoon, with armored vehicles and a water cannon on standby while a helicopter thumped overhead.

Thousands of workers gathered in an amphitheatre near Implats' Rustenburg mine to listen to AMCU leaders.

"Management adjusted all salaries across the board. We didn't get the 10 percent we wanted but we got something we can work with. We will continue talks with management next week. We will not go on strike while we are talking," Khayalethu Mzimeli, an AMCU representative, told Reuters after the meeting.

African National Congress outcast Julius Malema, a populist who has backed the wildcat strikes and called for the nationalization of South Africa's mines, had been due to address Implats workers to encourage them to press for higher wages, but he failed to show.   Continued...