JOHANNESBURG/LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) – South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Friday it would fight platinum producer Lonmin’s plan to cut 3,500 jobs, raising the prospect of a resurgence of the labour unrest that has plagued the sector.
Lonmin, the world’s third-largest producer of the precious metal, said on Thursday it needed to make the layoffs in response to depressed prices and it was holding talks with employees and unions at its South African mines.
But the NUM, which represents roughly 10 percent of Lonmin’s workers, said it was shocked by the announcement and had not yet been officially consulted.
“We are going to fight against any job losses … The platinum sector had cut 35,000 jobs since 2012 and it is time to join forces to end this bloodbath,” it added.
AMCU, by far the largest mining union with about 85 percent of Lonmin’s workers among its members, was unavailable for comment.
South Africa’s economy relies heavily on natural resources but has been hit by recurrent and at times violent strikes.
A bruising five-month walkout across the sector — South Africa’s longest and costliest — cut Lonmin’s production and dragged it into the red last financial year, but failed to lift prices for the white metal.
In 2012, the London-listed firm was also at the centre of labour unrest and violence that left dozens dead.
“My gut feeling is that there’s got to be some risk of industrial action at Lonmin. And if that’s the case, it could be a trigger for another wave of industrial disputes in the country because this is only the first step in a necessary industry restructuring,” said Bernstein analyst Paul Gait.
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