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South Africa's mining wage dispute spreads

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 02:18

Aug.28 - Platinum miner Lonmin is expected to sign a peace truce with workers on Wednesday as thousands of gold workers in South Africa gear up to begin strike action. Sonia Legg reports.

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It's all quiet in the settlement around Lonmin's platinum mine in South Africa. There's been no production there for more than two weeks. 44 miners were killed at Marikana earlier this month. Despite numerous meetings between unions and management only 8 percent of staff reported for duty on Tuesday. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROCK-DRILL OPERATOR REPRESENTING THE MINERS, ZOLISA BODLANI SAYING: "It is painful because we have already lost our 44 brothers on this issue, so if we can turn them back and go to work without getting anything it will be like we are just selling them." But the world's third largest platinum producer is struggling too. Analyst Loane Sharp says lost production has cost Lonmin more than a billion rand - that's almost 100 million dollars. (SOUNDBITE) ( English) LABOUR MARKET ANALYST LOANE SHARP SAYING: "They're losing significant production every week, that this continues. The miners seem to be belligerent in their attitude, we are seeing unions being opportunists, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is taking similar wage demands to the gold mine sector." Tens of thousands of gold miners are expected to down tools on Thursday as strikes spread through the country's vital mining sector. They may have more bargaining power than their platinum mining colleagues, as the slowing car industry needs fewer catalytic converters. (SOUNDBITE) ( English) LABOUR MARKET ANALYST LOANE SHARP SAYING: "The platinum mines have experienced a sharp drop in the platinum price over which they don't have control, as a result they're shedding work force, closing down mines, scaling back the operations - in these circumstances to ask for high wages is really opportunistic." Mining is a vital part of South Africa's economy. But well above-inflation settlements have eroded its global competitiveness. The striking rock drillers at Lonmin's mine have been demanding a monthly wage of 1,500 dollars a day. But they already earn six times more than the average Chinese worker and are less productive. The government is now acting as the middle man but an agreement won't come cheap. Sonia Legg, Reuters

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South Africa's mining wage dispute spreads

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 02:18