South Africa strikes spread to transport sector

South Africa labor strikes spread to transport sector; Amplats mine workers meet over demands

Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa's labor unrest spread Tuesday from its mines to the transport sector, and the country's transport union said more than 20,000 road freight employees are on strike demanding a pay increase.

An extended transport strike will affect the delivery of goods including gasoline and food items in South Africa.

South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union said road freight employees are demanding a 12 percent pay increase. Employers had offered an 8.5 percent increase, an offer that was rejected in the Gauteng province earlier Tuesday, SATAWU spokesman Vincent Masoga said. The workers also want an equal increase for workers classified under the council's extended bargaining unit, he said.

"Talks are finished for today, but no resolution was reached," Masoga said, adding that the strike will continue Wednesday.

Striking truck drivers gathered in Johannesburg on Tuesday and threw stones at passing trucks. The union said workers decided to strike since there has been a deadlock in wage negotiations since June.

Also Tuesday, mine workers for the Anglo American Platinum mines near Rustenburg met with management and arbitrators to discuss demands submitted last week for greater pay. Gaddafi Mdoda, a representative for the miners said that through talks with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, workers have now dropped their demand for a monthly gross pay of about 16,000 rand ($2,000) and have asked for a take home monthly pay of 12,500 rand ($1,560).

Mdoda said that Amplats has been given seven days to respond.

"We will be waiting for these seven days with our tools down until they respond," he said.

Striking miners at Lonmin PLC, a platinum mine in South Africa's north west, had demanded a take-home pay of 12,500 rand, but eventually they accepted a 22 percent pay raise that gave them a monthly pay of 11,000 rand ($1,375). The deal was reached after nearly six weeks of sometimes violent protests that saw 46 people killed. The Lonmin deal has led to other miners in the area to demand the same, and to sidestep their unions to deal directly with management.

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole told The Associated Press that she did not have updates on the talks Tuesday, or the number of miners striking.

Anglo American Platinum is the world's largest producer of the metal used in jewelry and to reduce carbon emissions of high-end vehicles. Police broke up several gatherings last week at the Amplats mine settlements using tear gas.

Mdoda said that five worker representatives are meeting directly with Amplats management and representatives from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, the same body that helped in Lonmin negotiations.

Amplats miners will gather Wednesday, despite the outcome of talks Tuesday. Mdoda said he expected 9,000 to 10,000 workers at the Bleskop stadium near Rustenburg.

"We are going to meet no matter what," Mdoda said. "If it is negative, the strike will continue in a hard way because it's been a long time we've been waiting for the management to discuss our demands."

Strikes at the Amplats mines have been ongoing for weeks despite calls from management that workers return to the mines or face legal action.

Labor unrest is also ongoing in the gold mining sector. Nearly 25,000 workers are on strike at Gold Field's KDC West and Beatrix mines, spokesman Willie Jacobsz said Tuesday. Strikes at the KDC West mines started more than two weeks ago.

"The cause of the strikes at KDC West was originally a leadership issues, though other issues have surfaced, gone away and returned," said Jacobz. "The financial question has raised its head, but our position is that we currently have an existing wage agreement in place until the middle of next year. "

Jacobz said the KDC West mine, when operating, produces about 14,000 ounces of gold per day, while the Beatrix mine produces 900 ounces daily.

South Africa produces 75 percent of the world's platinum and is the No. 4 chrome producer and the fifth-biggest gold producer. South Africa produces 7 percent of the world's production of gold.

Miners at AngloGold Ashanti's Kopanang mine, which employs 5,000 people and produced about 4 percent of AngloGold Ashanti's total production in the first half of this year, continued strikes started last week into Tuesday, company spokesman Alan Fine said.

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