South Africa platinum miner expects union to accept deal

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The world's No. 2 platinum producer, Impala Platinum, said on Monday 24 August its operations were running normally a day after South Africa's biggest union said it had suspended a strike after securing an improved wage offer.



South Africa produces four fifths of the world's platinum. A strike at Impala Platinum (Implats) could have pushed up prices of the precious metal used in catalytic converters to remove pollutants from car exhausts, and in jewellery.

Spot platinum rose 0.5 percent to $1,257 per ounce, with investors mostly taking in their stride news of the suspension of the strike that had been set to start on Monday 24 August at Implats.

Implats' said its mines and smelters were running normally.

"Everything is normal. It is a normal working day. I would guess the workers will accept the new offer," Implats spokesman Bob Gilmour said.

On Sunday 23 August, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it had suspended the strike after a breakthrough in talks that ran from Saturday 22 August into the early hours of Sunday (23 August) morning.

The union said on Monday 24 August it would call off the strike completely if its members backed the new deal. The union would get its members' verdict on the new offer later on Monday 24 August.

Implats and the NUM were trying to agree on a pay increase, as well as the duration of the new deal. Implats' latest offer met the union's two key demands, handing it a one-year wage agreement, with a pay rise of 10 percent for all workers.

Above-inflation pay settlements after strikes in other industries and sectors in South Africa, and threats of more stoppages have added to concerns of inflation pressures, although President Jacob Zuma has said the union action was nothing more than part of the normal pay negotiating process.

A strike could have affected output from Implats mines in South Africa, and hurt investor sentiment in a sector already hard hit by the financial crisis.

Implats supplies 25 percent of global platinum output mainly from its South African mines and its Zimbabwean operations.

The threat of strikes by the union has in some cases failed to materialise after it has won pay increases from employers.

"We have no strike action today," said the NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka.

"Officially the NUM has suspended the strike, but we have not called it off. We'll call it off completely as soon as we get our members' mandate to accept the new wage deal."

Another round of wage talks between the NUM and Anglo American Plc's unit Anglo Platinum, the world's biggest platinum producer, are due to be held this week. There has been no specific threat of a strike from the union there.

Strikes in various sectors have led to pay settlements of above inflation -- 6.9 percent in June -- and worries that it could make it harder to lift Africa's biggest economy out of its first recession in 17 years.

By James Macharia

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