South Africa's Amplats CEO apologizes for comments on fair pay

JOHANNESBURG Sat May 17, 2014 5:07am EDT

Chief Executive of Anglo American Platinum, Chris Griffith addresses a media conference in Johannesburg February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Chief Executive of Anglo American Platinum, Chris Griffith addresses a media conference in Johannesburg February 19, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The chief executive of strike-hit Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) (AMSJ.J) apologized for saying this week his seven figure salary was justified because he was skilled whereas miners were not.

His comments cause an uproar in the midst of a violent 16-week strike in the platinum companies Amplats, Impala Platinum (Implats) (IMPJ.J) and Lonmin (LMI.L) by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

"My choice of words was inappropriate and a poor way to describe the extremely challenging situation we find ourselves in," Chris Griffiths, Amplats chief executive said in a statement on Friday.

He had told the Business Day that the focus should be on affordable wages that would dent the country's high unemployment rate, "rather than comparing salaries of educated, skilled executives with workers with few or no skills and limited education."

Griffiths earned 17.6 million rand ($1.7 million) in 2013 according to the company's latest annual report.

The companies have said they cannot afford AMCU's demand for a "living wage" of 12,500 rand while the union's president have questioned salaries of company executives.

Implats said on Friday its chief executive, who earns about 7.5 million would not be taking a pay hike in light of the strike which would cripple the company's production for the rest of its financial year.

($1 = 10.3510 South African Rand)

(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala, editing by William Hardy)