JOHANNESBURG Jan 27 Government-brokered talks
between South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and
Construction Union (AMCU) and the world's top three platinum
producers began on Monday in a bid to end a strike that has hit
half of global output of the precious metal.
Hopes for an immediate resolution to the strike, which began
on Thursday, remained dim given AMCU's uncompromising approach
to negotiations and with the two sides poles apart over wages.
The delegations for the talks at a Pretoria hotel were also
low level, with no ministers or chief executives from Anglo
American Platinum, Impala Platinum or Lonmin
. AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa was also absent.
South Africa's rand lost more than 1 percent in
early trade to hit new five-year lows against the dollar as the
strikes coincided with an emerging-market selloff, dealing a
double blow to investor confidence in Africa's biggest economy.
"It's a perfect storm. Aside from the offshore factors which
are beyond our control, locally we have the strikes, a general
election in a few months and a weak economy. So there is no good
news for the rand at the moment," said Christie Viljoen of NKC
Platinum's spot price climbed slightly to $1,425.00
an ounce, approaching 2-1/2-month highs, on concerns about the
impact the stoppages will have on the metal used for
emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles.
Under the populist battle cry of a "living wage", AMCU is
demanding minimum entry-level pay of 12,500 rand ($1,100) a
month from the three platinum producers - a more than doubling
of current levels.
Companies say they can ill afford this as they grapple with
soaring costs and depressed demand for platinum, especially in
key markets such as Europe.