Johannesburg - Lonmin [JSE:LON], due to resume talks on Monday with
strikers at its Marikana platinum mine who rejected a pay rise
offer last week, insisted it could not meet the workers' demands but promised a
new approach in labour relations.
Acting chief executive Simon Scott said the deaths at the
mine of protesters, 34 of whom were shot dead by police on August 16, had been
a "wake-up call" for the company and it was committed to ending the five-week
labour unrest in which a total of 45 people have been killed.
In an opinion piece published in the Sunday Times newspaper,
Scott said Lonmin would improve discussions with strikers although it could not
afford to meet their higher wage demands.
"For Lonmin, the starting point is to acknowledge that
our company must go through a process of self-reflection," Scott said.
"What I can promise is that we are committed to playing
our part. We have had our wake-up call, as has the rest of South Africa.
"Clearly, one of the issues we need to reflect on is
how we find balance between protecting the business, and the jobs dependent
upon it, on the one hand and how we respond with sensitivity to the complex
situations that Lonmin is at the centre of," Scott said.
The company also said said that reports indicating it had
made a second wage offer were incorrect, and its offer remained unchanged.
"Lonmin wishes to make it clear that reports indicating
it has made a second offer are incorrect," it said.
"Lonmin reiterates its position that the R12 500 demand
is unaffordable and would result in a trade-off between wages and jobs."
On Friday workers at the mine dismissed the company's offer
as way below the R12 500 a month sought by members of the militant Association
of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which is challenging the
influence of the more established National Union of Mineworkers (Num).
The dispute at Marikana has been at the heart of unrest, in
which a total of 45 people have been killed, that has spread through the platinum
sector in South Africa, the world's top producer of the metal, rattling
Africa's biggest economy.
The labour unrest has also highlighted a power struggle
within the ANC.
ANC rebel Julius Malema has seized on it to return from the
political wilderness, urging strikers to make mines "ungovernable".
The Hawks said it was
investigating a case against Malema, opened by trade union Solidarity early
this month, of incitement of violence and intimidation.
"That case has been referred to us and we are currently
investigating," Hawks spokesperson MacIntosh Polela said.
"We are not going to narrow it to Marikana. We are just
going to look for evidence of this incitement, aspects of it are going
definitely to be Marikana."
The rand fell 3% on Wednesday as the unrest engulfed Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS], the biggest miner, and ripples began to reach the bond
On Friday police fired teargas and stun grenades to disperse
another group of striking miners at an Aquarius Platinum [JSE:AQP] plant.
Scott, who has been acting chief executive while Ian Farmer
has been on sick leave since last month, reiterated the company's position that
a R12 500 monthly wage would put thousands of jobs at risk and challenge the
viability of the business.
"In stark financial terms, this would cost R2.3bn," he said.
The company is offering increases of between 9% and 21%.
In a statement on Sunday it denied a report by Num that it
had improved its key offer to rock drill operators, who are at the centre of
Num said on Saturday Lonmin had raised the offer to these
workers from an earlier proposal of R900, but the company said it had already
been offering them a rise of over R1 800 a month, excluding bonuses.
The price of platinum, used in jewellery and vehicle
catalytic converters, has risen more than 20% since the Marikana shootings amid
fears of disruption to supplies.
Even though the Lonmin wage offer was rejected, its shares
rose 5.5% on Friday on the back of another jump in the platinum price following
the announcement of US economic stimulus measures.
Lonmin has said its talks are to resume at 08:00 GMT on
* Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.