Platinum Producers Plan More Talks to End Pay-Strike Impasse

Jun 19, 2014 11:54 am ET

(Updates with call to Lonmin in final paragraph.)

June 19 (Bloomberg) -- The world’s largest platinum producers are seeking more meetings with the biggest union at their mines in South Africa to discuss a compromise on new pay demands that have delayed the resolution of a 21-week strike.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union submitted additional terms that the producers estimate would cost about 1 billion rand ($94 million), Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc said in a joint statement yesterday.

“Often the last little bit is the hardest,” Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala, said today by phone. “There’s a real desire to get this thing resolved.” Impala will meet with the AMCU by tomorrow at the latest, he said. Amplats, as the biggest producer is known, started talks with the union late this afternoon for a second time in two days, spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said by phone.

The AMCU has led more than 70,000 workers on a stoppage since Jan. 23 in the longest and costliest strike in South Africa, where about 70 percent or the world’s platinum is mined. The union and producers last week agreed in principle on monthly pay increases of as much as 1,000 rand a year on current basic wages of about 5,000 to 6,000 rand. The new demands include a 3,000-rand one-time payment for each employee on top of other allowance and wage increases.

The latest requests are unaffordable, the producers said in their statement. They have lost 23.2 billion rand in revenue since the start of the strike while workers have missed out on 10.3 billion in wages, the producers said on a joint website.

AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa and Treasurer Jimmy Gama didn’t answer calls seeking comment. Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for Lonmin, wasn’t able to comment on the outcome of talks today.