* Tensions high in platinum belt after violence last year
* Amplats needs cuts to restore profits
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Tiisetso Motsoeneng
RUSTENBURG, South Africa, May 10 South African
labour activists promised on Friday to fight any job cuts by
Anglo American Platinum, which is expected to unveil a
new plan on restoring profits later in the day after the
original provoked a backlash from the government and unions.
Amplats, a unit of London-based Anglo American and
the world's top platinum producer, had initially envisaged
slashing 14,000 jobs and mothballing two mines. Industry sources
have told Reuters the final plan, produced after months of tough
talks with the government, would demand as few as 5,000
In the restive platinum belt city of Rustenburg which will
bear the brunt of the lay-offs, activists with the militant
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) said
they would not tolerate any job losses.
"Even if it's 5,000 or 6,000 jobs, they must not be lost.
Where will 6,000 people in this economy go? They will engage in
criminality," Simon Hlongwane, a winch operator and AMCU branch
secretary at Amplats Thembelani mine, told Reuters. "We as AMCU
stand ready to fight," the 42-year-old said.
Social tensions are running high after violence rooted in a
labour turf war between AMCU and the dominant National Union of
Mineworkers (NUM) killed more than 50 people last year and
provoked illegal strikes that hit production. This was a major
reason why Amplats suffered its first loss last year.
With unemployment over 25 percent and elections due next
year, the government has taken a strong line in the negotiations
with Amplats, which has promised an announcement this week.
The average South African mineworker has eight dependants,
so the social and political consequences even of reduced
lay-offs will be far reaching.
AMCU has made good on strike promises in the past, including
in January when it briefly closed several mines in protest when
the initial Amplats plan was unveiled, though is leaders said in
Johannesburg on Thursday they would not back such action.
For Amplats, reining in costs and cutting production to such
an extent that it lifts the price of platinum - used for
emissions-capping catalytic converters in motor vehicles - is
crucial to getting back to profit.
AMCU emerged as the dominant union in the platinum shafts
last year after it poached tens of thousands of disgruntled
members from the NUM, a political ally of the ruling African