April 21, 2011 / 11:57 AM / 7 years ago

Amplats pushes for performance in labour talks

* Top platinum producer wants more performance pay

* “Project fast forward” would see bonuses paid faster

* Faster bonuses crucial for union buy-in

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG, April 21 (Reuters) - Anglo Platinum (AMSJ.J), the world’s largest platinum miner, is pushing to have front-line supervisors’ bonuses more closely aligned with performance to boost productivity, its head of mining operations told Reuters.

The company has also embarked on an internal restructuring called “Project Fast Forward”, which aims among other things to streamline administration.

This would include paying bonuses in a more timely manner, which could help it sell its performance drive to union members.

Pieter Louw, the company’s head of mining operations, confirmed some of the details of Fast Forward and its union talks, which sources familiar with the matter disclosed to Reuters.

Asked if the company was in discussion with unions to make bonuses more directly tied to performance and output, he replied: “You are exactly right.”

He was speaking to Reuters by phone after the company released its quarterly production update.

Such a move could face resistance from unions at a time when labour relations in South Africa’s mining industry are strained. It could also raise concerns about safety if supervisors were thought to be pushing too hard for production targets.

Mine safety is back in the spotlight. Amplats had four fatalities in the first quarter of 2011.

Government data shows mineworker deaths have risen over 25 percent in the first quarter of this year to 38, compared with the same period last year.

“A bonus could be months in arrears, and we want to see it done much faster than that,” Louw said.

“To be paid months later, you lose the impact. So, Fast Forward is in this instance geared at getting the administration done as fast as possible so they see the link immediately. I produce so much, I get so much money,” he said.

A source familiar with discussions around the project said getting the buy-in from the workers was considered a priority.

Louw said the project was also aimed at their internal reporting and information exchange systems.

“We want to input information only once, so that it flows through the whole system. We have various input times and levels which takes up labour and time,” he said.

“So it is looking at all those kinds of things to make our reporting more streamlined and faster,” he said.

In its quarterly review and production report the company said worker productivity had declined by 15 percent from the same period in 2010 and it was something it wanted to turn around as it maintained its production refining and selling target of 2.6 million ounces this year. (Editing by Will Waterman)

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