* Lonmin memo says security will be provided for miners
* Company aims for May 14 restart
* Managers have been visiting shafts to prepare
* Rival union says members coming back
(Adds NUM, Anglo and other comments)
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, May 9 South African platinum
producer Lonmin is preparing to restart operations next
week after taking its latest wage offer directly to striking
miners, hoping to end the country's longest and most costly
The 15-week strike over pay by the Association of
Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has also hit Anglo
American Platinum and Impala Platinum, jointly
costing them about $1.5 bln in revenue.
"Our shop stewards are saying that Lonmin management has
been going around this week to all the shafts to prepare for the
start up on the 14th," an official with a rival union to AMCU
Wage talks collapsed two weeks ago and the three producers
of the precious metal have been trying to undermine AMCU's
leadership with direct appeals to the strikers, betting that
they are keen to return after going so long without pay.
AMCU's main union rival the National Union of Mineworkers
(NUM) said on Friday that many of its workers, who had not been
on strike and had been prevented from returning to Amplats'
shafts, were now showing up.
Lonmin has been asking its employees through text messages
and other means to indicate if they want to accept the latest
offer and return to work and the company has said it should know
by Friday if it can go ahead with the May 14th start.
In an internal memo sent to its employees last week and seen
by Reuters, the company spelled out the steps to be taken and
said employees had until Thursday, May 8 at 1600 local time
(1400 GMT) to send their replies. It also provided a toll-free
Help Line number for workers with questions about the offer.
"If we have sufficient take-up, a reminder SMS will be sent
and logistics will be arranged in terms of transport and
security provisions around return to work," the memo said.
"The safety and security of our employees remains our number
one priority and additional security will be in place during and
immediately after this start-up period."
Security will be regarded as crucial as the companies say
AMCU is using violence and intimidation to keep its members in
line, allegations the union has denied.
NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni told Reuters that over
the past three weeks the number of its members returning to
Amplats' Rustenburg mines was up about 40 percent and 3,000 to
4,000 of its members were back at work.
He also said some AMCU members including defectors returning
to NUM were among them.
NUM was dethroned from the platinum belt in 2012 when AMCU
poached tens of thousands of its members in a brutal turf war
that killed dozens of people and triggered a wave of wildcat
strikes that year.
"All of the Anglo mines around Rustenburg have been a hot
spot of intimidation. But our guys are now moving from their
homes that they were renting and are moving around to avoid
being targeted," Baleni said.
James Wyatt-Tilby, a spokesman in London for Anglo American
, Amplats' parent company, said workers had been
trickling back to its shafts.
"We are seeing a steady increase of employees from all
unions returning to work across the strike affected mines and we
call on all employees to follow suit," he told Reuters.
"We know from a large number of employees that while they
want to return to work, many are fearful of doing so due to
unacceptable threats to their personal safety."
A critical mass of workers would be required to get its
strike-hit and labour-intensive operations going again.
AMCU officials were not immediately available for comment.
Implats said on Thursday it was also conducting an SMS vote
on the offer late this week.
The companies are offering increases of up to 10 percent
that they say would raise the overall minimum pay package to
12,500 rand ($1,200) a month by July 2017, including cash
allowances such as for housing.
AMCU had initially demanded an immediate increase to 12,500
rand in the basic wage, excluding allowances, but softened that
stance in March to staggered increases that would amount to
12,500 rand within three or four years - still a third more than
what the companies are offering in basic salaries.
The companies say they were bleeding cash even before the
strike. Underscoring the industry's woes is the muted reaction
of the platinum price to the strike. Spot platinum is
fetching around $1,425 an ounce, a bit lower than its levels on
the eve of the stoppage.
(Additional reporting by Silvia Antonioli in London; Editing by
Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)