February 21, 2012 / 4:15 PM / 8 years ago

Union meeting raises hopes at troubled Implats' mine

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Impala Platinum , the world’s second-largest platinum producer, said on Tuesday it was hopeful that most of the workforce at its Rustenburg operations would be persuaded by union leaders to return to work.

But there is no guarantee that a mass meeting called by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will succeed in getting the mineworkers back on the job as many have grievances with NUM and may not listen to its leaders.

A violent labour dispute at the world’s largest single platinum mine has already cost Implats at least 80,000 ounces in lost output as the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union tries to recruit from a workforce that has traditionally been aligned with NUM.

The dispute centered on a bonus offered to only part of the workforce and has escalated into a violent struggle between competing unions.

Implats said on Tuesday that NUM had finally been able to hold a mass meeting there.

“We are hopeful that after the mass meeting, the NUM will be able to persuade the majority of their members to return to work,” Implats said in a statement.

Lesiba Seshoka, a spokesman for NUM, was also cautiously optimistic.

“We are hopeful the meeting will lead to the end of the protest action,” he said.

The workers on Tuesday were being addressed by NUM’s leadership as well as by Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

Illegal strike action at Rustenburg led Implats to fire over 17,000 workers. The company said the re-employment process was continuing with more than 8,000 people re-hired to date.

These include 995 rock drill operators, but the company has said it needs at least 2,000 before it can start hauling platinum out of the ground again. (Reporting By Sherilee Lakmidas and Ed Stoddard; Editing by Alison Birrane)

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