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South Africa union says begins strike at Northam Platinum

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Workers from South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers began a strike over wages at mid-tier producer Northam Platinum on Sunday evening, the union's chief negotiator said.

"The strike has started with the night shift … no work is being done at all," Ecliff Tantsi told Reuters.

NUM is demanding the company raise wages by between 22 percent and 43 percent, depending on the level of employees, and increase housing allowances by 69 percent. It has not moved from this demand.

Northam has twice improved its offer which now stands at increases of 7 and 8 percent in the first year, compared to a current inflation rate of 6 percent.

Over 7,000 NUM members will be downing tools in the strike that involves the workforce at Northam's Zondereinde operation, which accounts for the vast majority of its annual production of 300,000 ounces a year.

Northam's stoppage comes as NUM's hardline rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, prepares for a strike against top producers Anglo American Platinum (AMSJ.J), Impala Platinum (IMPJ.J) and Lonmin (LMI.L) which could hit at least half of global output.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; editing by Ralph Boulton)