Platinum-Strike Union Consults as Nomura Sees Restructuring

Jun 11, 2014 12:30 pm ET

(Updates with Impala comment in seventh paragraph.)

June 11 (Bloomberg) -- The union on strike at the world’s biggest platinum producers is consulting its members after the latest effort to break the four-month deadlock ended in failure and without any plans for further negotiations.

Government-led talks to resolve the dispute over pay ended June 9 without agreement between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc. Nomura International Plc analysts predicted the walkout will end months from now in companies restructuring their operations.

More than 70,000 AMCU members have been on strike since Jan. 23 to back a demand that wages for the lowest paid underground employees be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,175) a month by 2017. The companies have said they can’t afford that and offered increases of as much as 10 percent.

“We think the market has repeatedly become over- enthusiastic about the likelihood of a resolution because it has not understood AMCU’s core stance on the 12,500 rand,” Peter Attard Montalto, an emerging-markets strategist at Nomura in London, said in a note to clients. “That it is the basic salary and is non-negotiable.”

The AMCU plans to get feedback from members through next week on what to do next, Jimmy Gama, treasurer for the union, said by phone today.

‘Serious Situation’

No discussions with the union are scheduled, Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the companies, said in a phone interview. “The producers have gone as far as they can go.”

The producers and the union made progress in some areas during the government-led talks, Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala Platinum, said by phone today. Contact between his company and the AMCU continues “at the highest possible level,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean that there are negotiations, but I think everyone understands the seriousness of the situation,” Theron said. “It is the natural next step before one potentially takes more dire steps.”

The next events in the dispute could be further talks that fail to achieve resolution, followed by discussions between the AMCU and mine owners about reorganizing their operations, Nomura’s Attard Montalto said.

“Eventual restructuring occurs, with a very high risk of violence between those workers who have chosen to stay and those who are fired,” he said.