Impala bleeds as strike continues

ONE of the world's largest platinum producers, Impala Platinum, continues to bleed more than R9million a day since Monday after 20000 employees downed tools over wage demands.

Initially, the National Union of Mineworkers, the union representing the workers, demanded 10percent across the board, which the company says it agreed to "verbally" on Sunday.

At the time, the union had already obtained a certificate from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) permitting the workers to go on strike.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, Impala Platinum's spokesperson Bob Gilmour said the union had recently tabled a new demand of 14percent and additional benefits for housing and travelling allowance.

Gilmour said: "We will not negotiate the new figure because it is double the South African inflation rate."

He said the mining company was awaiting feedback from the union after it went to inform its members of the company's position.

Chief executive David Brown earlier yesterday told Reuters that the company could carry out mass dismissals of those on strike.

"The strike is reducing output and cash flow - and it puts pressure on the company. We reserve the right to mass dismissals, it is one of the options we have," he said.

Union spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said: "We followed procedures during the dispute at the CCMA, and served 48 hours notice for the strike to start on Monday."

He said the union had never communicated any formal position with the mining company on the cancellation of the strike.

"There is no wage agreement until it's signed. We said that we accept the offer in principle, pending consultations with our members."

Implats released its annual results yesterday and said earnings fell 52percent on low prices due to weak demand for the metal, but forecasted rising demand. - Additional reporting by Reuters