Johannesburg - South Africa's platinum industry is in
"severe financial distress" and high wage settlements to get wildcat
strikers back to work will lead to job cuts, Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS] said.
The world's top platinum producer said it was losing
production averaging 3 694 ounces of platinum per day due to a strike at its
South African operations that is in its seventh week. To date 141 640 oz of
the precious metal have been lost.
"This is completely the wrong time to be offering
unsustainable wage increases that the moment people are back at work you just
have to (lay off) a whole lot of people," the firm's chief executive Chris
Griffith told Talk Radio 702 On Thursday.
"There will be implications for jobs," he said
adding that Amplats could not "negotiate in a climate of anarchy".
Amplats' parent company Anglo American [JSE:AGL] has already
placed its four Rustenburg mines "under review" - management-speak
for their possible closure.
Layoffs in the mining industry were a prime factor behind a
rise in unemployment in the third quarter that left more than one in four of
the labour force out of work.
Months of unrest in the mines have hit platinum and gold
output, threatened growth and drawn criticism of President Jacob Zuma for his
handling of the most damaging strikes since the end of apartheid in 1994.
But the number of strikes has dropped in the last two weeks
amid management threats of mass dismissals and some payment sweeteners.
Amplats said last week it had reached a deal with several
unions and would be offering incentives such as one-off hardship payments of R2
000 to end the strike that has crippled production.
But the workers turned down the offer, saying Amplats should
match a salary increase of up to 22% offered by rival Lonmin after a violent
wildcat walkout at its nearby Marikana platinum mine in August.
The Lonmin offer came after the police killing of 34 miners
on August 16, the bloodiest security incident since apartheid.
Lonmin, the world's third-largest platinum producer, is
scrambling to get back on its feet after the violent six-week strike that
crippled production and led it to ask shareholders for $800m in a rights issue
The company also gave unions notice of a restructuring, with
proposed job losses in its 25 000-strong work force expected to be implemented
in early 2013.
Striking workers at gold firms including AngloGold Ashanti
[JSE:ANG] and Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] returned to work last week after threats of
mass dismissals and an offer of a small pay increase.