Unrealistic demands threaten companies, employees and country – Platinum bosses – by Zandi Shabalala and Ed Stoddard (Mineweb.com – January 22, 2014)

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The chief executives of Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, in a rare joint statement, said strikes have cost the companies over $1.15bn in the last 2 years.

JOHANNESBURG (REUTERS) – Bosses of the world’s top three platinum producers accused South Africa’s AMCU union of making “unaffordable and unrealistic” demands on Tuesday ahead of a strike this week which could hit over half of global output of the precious metal.

The chief executives of Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin made the dramatic warning as signs of some divisions emerged in the hardline Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which has called the stoppage for Thursday.

In a rare joint statement that throws down the gauntlet in a bruising standoff between capital and labour, the trio said that “it is of great concern … that employees are being made promises by AMCU that cannot be delivered upon.”

AMCU’s charismatic president, Joseph Mathunjwa, is under pressure to deliver on pledges of a “living wage” of 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month, more than double current levels.

The platinum chiefs – Amplats’ Chris Griffith, Implats’ Terence Goodlace, and Lonmin’s Ben Magara – said their wage increase offers ranged from 7.5 to 8.5 percent, well above the current inflation rate of 5.3 percent.

The companies were battered by wildcat strikes in 2012 rooted in a turf war between AMCU and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in which dozens of people were killed.

“In 2012 and 2013, our companies lost a combined 879,400 ounces of production as a result of strike action. This translates into revenue losses of around 12.54 billion rand ($1.15 billion),” the joint statement said.

“Unfortunately these factors led to a reduction in the combined industry workforce from more than 145,000 to less than 134,000 from December 2011 to December 2013. This is a time when the industry can ill afford further losses of production and jobs due to strike action,” it said.

NEW RIVAL?

Dissidents in AMCU are forming a rival union, accusing its leadership of recklessly pursuing a damaging strike which they say many miners do not want and cannot afford.

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