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Platinum sector could see '10,000 job losses'

Solidarity is concerned workers will be affected by downsizing once the platinum strike comes to an end.

Around 70,000 Amcu-affiliated miners have been on strike on the platinum belt since January. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Trade union Solidarity says it expects up to 10,000 workers to be affected by downsizing and restructuring on the platinum belt once the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)'s wage strike comes to an end.

Talks between Amcu and the world's top three producers will continue this week in a bid to iron out issues that are holding up a settlement including additional demands tabled by the union that were not in the original agreement.

This is despite the union reaching an agreement in principle with the companies last week.

The additional demands are understood to be related to a once-off payment and increases in living out allowances.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has labelled the demands as unaffordable.

Gideon du Plessis, General Secretary of Solidarity, says given that the companies have lost more than R20 billion and the marginally profitable and loss making shafts are unlikely to resume production.

"The end result is that we expect that close to 10,000 workers will be negatively affected after the strike is over by the downsizing exercised that will follow and obviously that is a big concern for us."

Du Plessis says Amcu should immediately drop its new 'wish list'.

"It's clearly just an attempt from their side to save face and their reputation at the 11th hour after all the damage they have caused. We regard this as bad faith bargaining since they keep on moving the goal posts."

The National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) says the additional demands should not add to the wage bill of mines.

Nactu President Joseph Maqhekeni, says "I know Amcu has written to them so they can come to the table and iron out those issues but they shouldn't be adding more rands and cents. The agreement is almost there."

Meanwhile, Stanlib mining analyst Kobus Nel says international investors will be monitoring any precedents that may be set in the deal.

"Investors are watching this with a hawk's eye and looking whether there is an unwanted principle set in this whole process and that can just knock confidence and capital flow."

Around 70,000 Amcu members at Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Amplats went on strike in January demanding an entry level salary of R12,500.

The strike has already had a negative impact on the country's economy and investor confidence and has been mentioned by ratings agency Standard & Poor's as one of the reasons South Africa's credit rating was downgraded.

South Africa is home to 80 percent of the world's known platinum reserves.

Meanwhile, the world's top three platinum companies said yesterday that there has been a significant upsurge in the number of people returning to work on the platinum belt.