* Amplats lawsuit alleges strike violence, intimidation
* Strike has cost producers 175,000 oz in lost output
* AMCU says company "trying to break strike"
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Feb 16 Anglo American Platinum
said on Sunday it was suing South Africa's Association
of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) for 591 million
rand ($54 million) in damages it said resulted from ongoing
strike action by AMCU members.
AMCU-affiliated workers downed tools over three weeks ago at
Amplats, the world's No. 1 platinum producer, and also at rivals
Impala Platinum and Lonmin in a sector-wide
stoppage over wages that has again rattled business confidence
in Africa's largest economy.
"There are increased costs to pay protection services staff
overtime, damage to property, and losses occasioned by the loss
of production because non-striking workers are being prevented
from going to work," Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole told
"There is evidence of illegal actions of violence and
intimidation and breaching of the picketing rules," she said.
AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told public broadcaster SAFM
that Amplats was "trying to break the strike."
Sithole said the Amplats lawsuit papers had been filed on
Friday at a regional high court in Pretoria, but she could not
say when the case would start being heard.
AMCU spokesman Jimmy Gama said the union had not received
the papers yet and could not respond until it did. The union has
always denied allegations that it uses intimidation.
An AMCU shop steward was killed in a clash with police at an
Amplats mine on Feb. 7 and the company said at the time that the
strike was becoming violent and that several of its vehicles had
AMCU has emerged as the dominant union on South Africa's
platinum belt over the past two years after poaching tens of
thousands of members from the National Union of Mineworkers
(NUM), which is allied to the ruling African National Congress.
The vicious union turf war erupted into violence in the
platinum sector last year and has killed dozens of people.
In August 2012, police shot dead 34 striking AMCU miners at
Lonmin's Marikana mine, South Africa's bloodiest security
incident since the end of apartheid in 1994. The killings
spooked investors and hit the country's credit ratings.
SIDES FAR APART OVER WAGES
The current platinum strike, which has affected over 40
percent of global production of the metal used in
emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles, has cost
companies about 175,000 ounces of lost output to date, according
to South Africa's chamber of mines.
There is no immediate end in sight with the two sides far
apart on the issue of wages. AMCU is to meet with a government
mediator on Monday but there are no direct talks scheduled
between the union and companies.
AMCU is demanding a more than doubling of basic pay to
12,500 rand a month under the battle cry of a "living wage."
Companies say they can ill afford this as they confront
rising costs and depressed prices. They have offered increases
of up to 9 percent against an inflation rate of 5.4 percent.
If Amplats was successful with its damages lawsuit, this
could bankrupt AMCU, which claims over 100,000 members.
Given the average wages in the sector at the lower end of
the pay scale where AMCU dominates, the union probably has
between 5 and 6 million rand a month flowing into its coffers
from membership dues.