South32 to cut 500 jobs at aluminium smelter -union

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 19 (Reuters) - South32 could cut about 500 jobs at its Hillside aluminium smelter in South Africa’s coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal, trade union Solidarity said, in a restructuring the company said is designed to reduce costs and help it contend with volatility in commodities markets.

The Australia-listed company is planning to cut 500 of the 1,300 employees at the Hillside site, Solidarity said on Tuesday.

“The company indicated in its request to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) that it intends to cut its workforce by 500 jobs,” Solidarity’s deputy general secretary, Marius Croucamp, said in a statement.

Job cuts in Africa’s most industrialised economy are politically sensitive, with the unemployment rate at more than 27 percent ahead of national elections this year.

South32, which also has manganese mines in South Africa, said it had informed employees at the smelter that it intends to begin consultations over job cuts.

“The consultation is related to a proposed restructure of the business. The purpose of the proposed restructure is to reduce Hillside’s controllable costs and improve resilience to volatility in commodities markets,” a South32 spokeswoman said without elaborating.

South32 is the latest mining company to cut jobs after Sibanye-Stillwater last week said that it could cut nearly 6,000 jobs in a potential restructuring of the company’s gold mining operations after losses at some of its mines last year. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg Editing by David Goodman)