JOHANNESBURG Nov 15 South African platinum
producer Northam Platinum said talks on Friday had
failed to break a deadlock over wages with the National Union of
Mineworkers (NUM), leaving no immediate end in sight to a strike
which started almost two weeks ago.
"Northam has indicated its willingness to continue with
facilitated talks, and is encouraged by the NUM's positive
reaction to the recommendation of further discussions," the
company said in a statement.
NUM officials were not immediately available for comment.
Northam said it was sticking to its latest offer of wage
increases of between 8 and 9 percent compared to a current
inflation rate of 6 percent.
NUM has been demanding wage hikes of as high as 43 percent
from the world's fifth-largest platinum producer which has an
annual output of about 300,000 ounces. Over 7,000 workers have
downed tools at its operations.
Northam is one of the few platinum producers where NUM still
represents most of the workers after it lost tens of thousands
of members last year to the hardline Association of Mineworkers
and Construction Union (AMCU) in a bloody turf war that killed
dozens of people and sparked a wave of wildcat strikes.
NUM's tough stance with Northam partly stems from its need
to counteract AMCU's militancy and retain its remaining members.
AMCU for its part remains in tough wage talks with the
world's top three producers of the precious metal, Anglo
American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin
. It has majority representation at all three companies.
AMCU has been given permission by a government mediator to
call legal strike action against Amplats and Implats but has
refrained from doing so, as it appears to be lining them all up
for one big strike although with the Christmas holiday period
approaching, it could wait until the New Year.
Union spokesman Jimmy Gama told Reuters on Friday its
deadlocked talks with Lonmin had now been referred to the
government mediator but it may take weeks before such a meeting
In a glimmer of hope, AMCU has softened its demand to
Implats for a minimum monthly wage, from least 12,500 rand
($1,200) - over double current levels - to 8,668 rand.
Platinum producers say depressed prices for the metal used
for making emissions-capping converters in automobiles and
rising costs across the board mean they can ill afford to add
much to their wage bills.