Metal producer Impala Platinum workers vote for strike

South African company hopeful it can avoid work stoppage

JOHANNESBURG (REUTERS) — South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) said its workers had voted in favour of a strike over wages at Impala Platinum (Implats), the world's second-largest producer of the metal.

"They said to go on strike," AMCU spokesman Jimmy Gama said on Monday. He did not provide any other details or say when the strike was due to start.

The company said it was still working to avoid a stoppage and hoped for more talks.

"We remain committed to finding a sustainable resolution and remain hopeful that strike action can still be averted," Implats' spokesman Johan Theron said.

A state mediator has given AMCU approval to launch strikes at Implats as well as industry leader Anglo American Platinum and the third-largest producer, Lonmin Plc.

A simultaneous strike at all three companies would hit at least half of global platinum production and could take out as much as two-thirds if Amplats' joint venture operations are also affected.

At Amplats and Lonmin, the union is seeking a minimum monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,200) for entry-level workers at Amplats and Lonmin - more than double current levels. AMCU says this amount would be a "living wage".

For Implats, the union late last year scaled back that demand to just over 8,500 rand.

AMCU will canvas its members at Lonmin and Amplats, a unit of global mining group Anglo American, later this week. The union will hold a media briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday about its current round of wage negotiations.

AMCU has emerged as the dominant union on South Africa's platinum belt over the past two years after wresting tens of thousands of members from the once unchallenged National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in a violent turf war in which dozens of people were killed.

On another labour front in the platinum belt, NUM said on Monday it had met with mid-tier platinum producer Northam Platinum for further talks to end a wage strike there that started in early November.

NUM has scaled back its initial demands, some of which exceeded 40 percent, and said the company was still offering increases of 8 percent and 9 percent, still well above inflation of 5.3 percent.

"We will convene a mass meeting of our members on Wednesday, and they will give us a mandate on whether to end the strike or not," NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said.

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