South African unions start wage talks with platinum miners

Dishaba platinum mine in Limpopo province, South Africa. (Image courtesy of Anglo American Platinum.)

South African labor unions have started wage negotiations with the country’s largest platinum miners as workers press for a share of the record profits generated by rallying metal prices.

Negotiations started with Anglo American Platinum Ltd. last week and more talks are planned tomorrow, William Mabapa, general-secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, said by phone. Amplats, a unit of Anglo American Plc, has extended its offer beyond the usual three-year period to five years, with annual increases in basic pay of 7%, according to Mabapa. 

Amplats also offered to backdate the new wages from April 1, if the unions agree to sign the deal this month, he said. Mabapa declined to disclose what the union is asking for. Amplats didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions. 

The NUM is holding the talks jointly with the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, after presenting their wage demands to Amplats, Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. While the South African miners announced record dividends after a rally in the price of palladium and rhodium, they have warned that wage settlements with about 163,000 workers must not risk the long-term viability of a key export industry.

The offer from Amplats, including other benefits, could result in the lowest-paid employee earning about 30,000 rand a month ($2,066) in the fifth year compared with the current 20,875 rand.

Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said the miner had received notice of wage demands from AMCU and said talks will start toward the middle of the year. Implats will also be engaging with the unions, said spokesman Johan Theron.

strike that’s been underway for more than a month at Sibanye’s gold mines could be escalated to the company’s platinum operations, the unions said Tuesday.

(By Felix Njini)

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