AFRICANGLOBE – A major South African platinum miner says it is losing 14 million rand a day due to a strike by over 7,000 workers and now fears for its survival.
The strike at Northam Platinum is in its third week and on Monday the company resorted to a publishing an open letter in two leading South African daily papers appealing for an end to the industrial action.
“A protracted strike will undermine the long-term viability of Northam and could threaten jobs,” the company said in a letter published in the Business Day and City Press newspapers addressed to Frans Baleni, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Northam said at least 2000 million rand had been lost due to the strike so far and warned that jobs were under threat.
“The company is not the only loser here: striking employees have so far lost 30 million rand in wages,” the company said.
However, NUM said its members were prepared to press on with the strike until their demands were met.
“We have not heard anything from management since the last meeting under the auspices of the CCMA section 150,” said Ecliff Tantsi, NUM chief negotiator at Northern Platinum.
“The NUM is still open for further negotiations with the company and we would be on standby 24 hours”.
The union said it was disappointed by the publication of the open letter by Northam.
“We note their concern that the company is losing millions a day in revenue due to strike action led by NUM,” the union said.
“NUM is not surprised, this is typical of those driven by profit at all cost and least concerned about the sustainability of workers livelihood.
“Unfortunately the open letter in the City Press and Business Day is an expensive public posture intended to mislead the South African public while making the CEO famous for what reason we are yet to know”.
NUM said they wanted “to extend a word of advice to Glyn Lewis, Northam CEO, and company General Manager, Danny Gonsalves to desist from the temptation to negotiate through the arrogance of power and avoid entering the negotiations with belligerence posture because that makes innovative thinking extremely difficult.”
According to Business Day, since the strike began, Northam’s share price has added 49c, or 12 percent, to R41, broadly tracking platinum prices and the rand-dollar exchange rate. Three years ago it was R50.
The Northam platinum mine is one of the few mines where NUM is the majority union.
NUM has been losing members to the more radical union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, AMCU.