South Africa's AMCU to strike at Amplats over job cuts

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2013 5:32 AM

By Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Members of South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at Anglo American Platinum will hold a strike to protest job cuts, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said on Tuesday.

Mathunjwa said the required 48-hour strike notice was served to the company on Monday and the strike would start on Friday. Tuesday is a public holiday in South Africa.

Amplats, the world's top platinum producer, said last month that it would cut about 4,800 jobs - laying off 3,300 workers and paying off the rest.

The platinum arm of global mining group Anglo American had plans in January to cut 14,000 jobs but backed away from that target after a fierce backlash from the government and unions. But workers remain unhappy with the final result.

Job cuts are a sensitive issue in South Africa, where the unemployment rate is more than 25 percent and mine labour violence rooted in a union turf war has killed dozens of people over the past 18 months.

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said the company received the notice and would engage with the AMCU.

"Strikes and work stoppages will result in further losses that will hamper plans for future sustainability," Sithole said.

"Downsizing the workforce is unfortunate but necessary for the survival of the business."

AMCU has emerged as the dominant union on the platinum belt after a violent turf war last year with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in which more than 50 people were killed.

WAGE TALKS

South African platinum producers are currently in pay negotiations with unions, which if deadlocked, may lead to more strikes. AMCU wants rises of more than 100 percent.

Huge wage hikes or strikes could hurt Amplats' results as it strives to recover from last year, when low platinum prices and a wave of violent wildcat work stoppages pushed it into the red.

Gold producers sealed a pay rise agreement with NUM that will see salary increases of up to 8 percent, but AMCU rejected the offer and is still in talks with the companies.

Coal producers are also in wage talks. Companies made a final wage offer to unions on Friday, proposing pay increases of between 7 and 11 percent.

NUM said it was still consulting members on the offer. AMCU is not involved in the coal wage talks.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Jason Neely)