Platinum Producers to Weigh Options as Latest Strike Talks Fail

Jun 09, 2014 2:12 pm ET

June 9 (Bloomberg) -- The world’s largest platinum producers said they will consider what actions they can take to end a 20-week pay strike after government-brokered talks with the union leading the walkout ended in failure.

Negotiations overseen by Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union “have been dissolved without an outcome,” Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc said in a joint statement today.

“We’ll have to analyze our options” on how next to respond to the strike, Johan Theron, a spokesman for second- biggest producer Impala, said by phone. “That won’t take long - - probably a day or two.”

The AMCU has led the strike of more than 70,000 mineworkers since Jan. 23, asking for wages of the lowest paid underground employees to be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,174) a month by 2017. The companies offered increases of as much as 10 percent. The talks that ended today were to be the last led by the government, according to Ramatlhodi.

“AMCU has made many concessions to try end the impasse,” union President Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters in Pretoria. “The employers offered nothing different to what was offered before.” The AMCU will meet with members starting tomorrow to get views on how to respond to the talks outcome, he said.

Repeated attempts have failed to engineer a breakthrough in the dispute that has idled 60 percent of output in the largest platinum-producing country. Negotiations between the sides earlier crumbled under meditation by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

Judge Intervenes

Later bilateral meetings ended in the companies breaking off discussions and putting a pay offer directly to employees, a move that the union sought to block in unsuccessful legal action. A labor court judge, Hilary Rabkin-Naicker, also took the unusual step of mediating company-union talks.

The process started by Rabkin-Naicker remains in place and could still lead to a settlement in future, Mathunjwa said.

Ramatlhodi will comment on the talks at a briefing in Pretoria tomorrow, his ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

Platinum pared losses after the talks ended and was little changed at $1,449.88 an ounce by 7.35 p.m. in Johannesburg.

The companies said in a statement that they have forfeited earnings of 22 billion rand and employees have lost about 9.6 billion rand in wages since the strike began.

--With assistance from Kevin Crowley and Paul Burkhardt in Johannesburg.