South Africa's AMCU union says Amplats strike begins

JOHANNESBURG Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:35am EDT

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A strike over job cuts at Anglo American Platinum operations in South Africa has started, a senior Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) official said on Friday.

Amplats, the world's top platinum producer and a unit of global mining group Anglo American, said last month it would cut 4,800 jobs - laying off 3,300 workers and paying off the rest.

The company had initially said it would cut 14,000 jobs but backed away from that target after a fierce backlash from the government and unions.

Workers remained unhappy with the reduced job-cut target and vowed to strike. Last-minute talks that started on Thursday appeared not to have produced a solution.

"It started this morning," AMCU treasurer Jimmy Gama told Reuters, although he said the union would hold further talks with the company later on Friday.

There has been no comment from Amplats.

AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told Johannesburg radio station Talk Radio 702 that the union was waiting for a response from the company.

"We have to always be positive but the ball is in management's court," Mathunjwa said.

Job cuts are a sensitive issue in South Africa, where the unemployment rate is more than 25 percent and mine labor violence rooted in a union turf war has killed dozens of people over the past 18 months.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) also faces an election in just over six months.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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