S.Africa union, platinum bosses in fresh talks to end strike

Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:54am BST

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* Strike has hit 40 pct of world platinum output

* First meeting of company, union bosses and minister

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG, April 17 (Reuters) - The leaders of South Africa's striking mining union and the chief executives of the world's three biggest platinum producers were set to meet on Thursday, in a renewed drive to end a crippling strike entering its 13th week.

"They will be meeting directly with the Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant present as well," a spokeswoman for the producers told Reuters.

Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin have so far lost 13.5 billion rand ($1.30 billion) in revenue to the longest and most damaging strike at the country's mines in living memory.

Both sides have been at odds over the issue of pay increases with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) demanding a more than doubling of the basic wage to 12,500 rand a month over the next three years.

The producers last disclosed offer was for pay hikes of up to 9 percent. This is all the companies say they can afford due to rising operating costs and depressed prices for the precious metal, which is used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles.

A source with one of the companies said the chief executives had held meetings last week and this week with AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa and senior government officials, but this was the first time "the bosses, Mathunjwa and a government minister will be in the same room together."

The strike, which has hit 40 percent of global platinum production, is also a headache for President Jacob Zuma and the African National Congress just three weeks before a national election.

AMCU on Tuesday asked the government and the public for funds to help sustain 70,000 striking members who have gone nearly three months without pay.

Friday marks the start of the four-day Easter weekend in South Africa and so regardless of what happens at Thursday's talks, operations won't restart until next week at the earliest.

($1 = 10.5643 South African Rand) (Editing by Joe Brock)

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