Dark days for Amplats workers

May 10 2013 22:13
Sapa, Rueters and Fin24

The company will now have talks with unions and chief executive Chris Griffith said this process was expected to take an additional two to three months. (File, AP)

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Johannesburg - Trade unions say they will fight the planned 6 000 job cuts at Anglo Platinum (Amplats) [JSE:AMS], with one saying it is a declaration of war, while another plans its next move.

Trade union Amcu will consult its members over the weekend on the announcement that Amplats could cut 6 000 jobs instead of the 14 000 it predicted earlier, its spokesperson told Sapa on Friday.

Jo-Mangaliso Mdhlela said that workers were not officially informed but that the meeting would hopefully take place over the weekend.

Amplats on Friday announced that it will cut 6 000 jobs, less than half the 14 000 initially proposed, as it strives to restore profits.

The company is expected to have talks with unions and chief executive Chris Griffith said this process was expected to take an additional two to three months.

"Declaration of war"

"This is a declaration of war," said National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka after the company's announcement.

"They have always known they were going to retrench 6 000. It was a big lie that it was 14 000."

Seshoka said NUM had told the company on Thursday that it was "totally opposed" to the planned job cuts.

The union intended approaching the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration to declare a dispute, and it would strike.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions expressed outrage over the announcement and said it would support the NUM in whatever action they decided to take to save jobs.

"Thousands of families face losing their only breadwinner and communities... will be devastated by the impact of such heavy job losses," Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said.

"This illustrates why Cosatu has consistently called for the nationalisation of the mining industry, so that it can be run for the benefit of the workers... and not for the profit of shareholders."

Franz Sterhing, divisional manager for mineral resources at Uasa, said it needed some time to process the news.

"Yes, we have received the revised plan, we will take a look at it, and give us some time to go and discuss it with our branches."

"Tooth and nail"

But it would fight job reductions "tooth and nail".

"How can you agree that someone loses his job? But [one] must get to a point where [you] agree that this is the only way out," he said.

Sterhing said a meeting with the company was planned for Monday.

It would also prefer to resolve the matter by avoiding court action and other legal challenges, he said.

Uasa is the majority union within the supervisors' unit at the company, with NUM representing the balance in that unit.

Mine workers at the company reportedly did not expect any retrenchments, Reuters reported on Friday.

"Everyone is surprised"

"Everyone is surprised", Sphamandla Makhanya, a worker committee member at Amplats told the news angency.

"We were not expecting any retrenchment at all. We can't allow this."

"But before we do anything, we are going to have a mass meeting with the workers to decide what to do next," Makhanya said.

For Amplats, reining in costs and cutting production enough to raise the global price of platinum, which is used for emissions-capping catalytic converters in motor vehicles, is crucial to getting back to profit.

The company said it would now aim to produce 2.2 to 2.4 million ounces a year, up from the 2.1 to 2.3 million ounces targeted in the original plan.

The revisions should deliver R3.8bn ($423m) in savings by 2015.

 - Agencies and Fin24

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amplats  |  amcu  |  num  |  chris griffith  |  retrenchments  |  mines



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