Producers, union to meet mediator separately in platinum strike

No talks scheduled between the companies and the union

JOHANNESBURG (REUTERS) — The world's top platinum producers and the AMCU union will hold separate meetings with a South African state mediator this week to discuss a stoppage over wages but no talks are scheduled between the companies and the union.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) downed tools over two weeks ago at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin after wage talks failed, and the prospect of a resolution looks distant without the companies and union coming together.

The strike, which has hit over 40 percent of global output of the precious metal, is stoking tensions on South Africa's platinum belt and an AMCU shop steward was killed on Friday in a clash with police.

"We are meeting with the companies and AMCU separately this week," a spokeswoman from the state mediator told Reuters on Monday.

It was unclear when it was meeting the union but a spokeswoman for the producers told Reuters the companies would meet the government mediator on Thursday.

The strike and the growing uncertainty over how to bring it to an end have undermined investor confidence in Africa's largest economy at a time when the rand currency has traded near five-year lows.

The stoppages are costing the country an estimated $36 million a day and are an unwelcome distraction for President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress three months ahead of general elections.

AMCU wants a more than doubling of basic pay to 12,500 rand ($1,100) a month, which companies say they can ill afford as they grapple with soaring costs and depressed global demand for the metal used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in vehicles.

The companies have offered wage hikes of up to 9 percent which they say are fair given an inflation rate of 5.4 percent.

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