Strike nation – Amplats dismisses 12 000 workers

2012-10-06 14:04

Company wants centralised bargaining in a time of crisis

After more than a week threatening it would dismiss workers, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has brought the axe down on the jobs of 12 000 workers at four of the five units of its Rustenburg operations.

Chris Griffith, the newly appointed chief executive of Amplats, said the company was committed to introducing centralised bargaining, and to considering bringing wage negotiations forward.

But with strikes now spreading to its refining operations as well as the Tumela (Union) and Dishaba (Amandelbult) mines, the company said it was unfeasible to keep the Rustenberg mines open.

Three weeks into the strike, which has been typified by violence and acrimony, most recently last night with the death of another worker, the company has lost 39 000 ounces of production, which was equal to R700 million in revenue.

“Currently, four of the company’s mining operations in the Rustenburg area have insufficient staff to operate and only essential services are being carried out at those mines,” Amplats said.

The four units contributed a combined 321 000 ounces of refined platinum production in the group’s last financial year, about a quarter of total production.

Amplats’ Tumela shaft produced another 260 000 ounces of refined platinum in the 2011 financial year while Dishaba contributed 150 000 ounces to total group refined platinum production of 1.5 million ounces.

Both operations are in the Limpopo province.

Strike contagion had also spread to the Mortimer smelting operations while the Rustenburg concentrators, smelters and refineries, and the Bathopele Mine continue to operate normally, it said.

The four affected Rustenburg units are Khuseseleka, Thembelani, Khomanani and Siphumelele.

Disciplinary hearings of striking workers had been underway for a week during which time Amplats had repeatedly asked workers to return to work.

Their dismissals were conducted in absentia.

All eyes now fall on the security situation at Rustenburg where water cannon and other crowd containment measures were in full force last night.

“Anglo American Platinum continues to work with the local authorities and other stakeholders to support the restoration of law and order to the affected areas,” the company said in its statement.

John Meyer, an analyst for UK stockbroker, Fairfax, chose to look at the potential, longer term benefits of South Africa’s strike crisis: “Ironically, South African industry may emerge better set from the strike action with closer ties between management and workers,” he said in a note to clients.

“The alternative for strike action and violent conflict to become an ongoing feature of South African industry, is not acceptable for many western investors,” he added.

Perhaps reflecting the potential benefits to offshore shareholders of the removal of platinum from an over-supplied market, shares in Amplats were up a shade while Anglo American had gained 2.2% on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Earlier today, Kumba Iron Ore, which is 69% owned by Anglo American, said it had engaged with about 300 illegally striking workers at its Sishen mine who had demanded a R15 000 monthly salary increase to be paid to all workers.

The striking workers, all permanent employees, were not represented by any union, Kumba said.

“Kumba concluded a two-year wage agreement with organised labour two months ago that makes provision for a salary increase of between 9% and 12%, which is well above the rate of inflation,” it said in an announcement.

It also paid R2.7 billion to 6 209 members of its Envision bonus scheme last year equal to a pretax payment of about R570 000 per employee.

Envision scheme members also receive dividends twice a year which amounted to R33 675 (pre-tax) per member in 2012, Kumba said.


– miningmx.com

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