Biggest Union Kicks Off Platinum Talks With 48% Wage Demand – by Paul Burkhardt (Bloomberg News – June 14, 2019)

(Bloomberg) — The biggest union in South Africa’s platinum industry demanded wage increases of as much as 48% from producers in the world’s top supplier of the metal, setting the stage for a tough fight in upcoming pay talks.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union wants minimum basic pay of 17,000 rand ($1,146) a month, President Joseph Mathunjwa said Friday. That compares with about 11,500 rand currently earned by the lowest-paid workers.

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The opening salvo — issued to companies including Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Sibanye Gold Ltd., and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. — represents a substantial step up from the labor group’s years-long rallying cry for “a living wage” of at least 12,500 rand a month.

That minimum still hasn’t been achieved at all producers. The union wants companies to share more of their profits following rallies in the prices of palladium and rhodium, which are dug up alongside platinum.

A weaker rand has also boosted miners’ earnings. Metal and mining investors will be watching the negotiations closely for any potential strike. The militant labor organization held the longest platinum mining strike in the country in 2014.

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