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Implats starts union member verification at Rustenburg

29 May 2012
JOHANNESBURG ( – Platinum miner Impala Platinum (Implats) said on Tuesday it was undertaking an union member verification at its Rustenburg operations following conflict between rival unions the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Group executive of human resources Johan Theron said Amcu was seeking to gain recognition for organisational rights from the platinum miner and claimed that its members accounted for over 8 000 of Implats’ 30 000-strong employee base.

Implats said that, to date, 10 813 employees have confirmed their resignation from the NUM.

Theron pointed out that the terms of the recognition agreement with the NUM allowed the union three months to reclaim support and re-establish itself as a majority union should its membership drop below 50%.

Labour unrest erupted at Implats again mid-May as the battle for majority union membership flared up between the unions.

The latest two-day disruptions at the operation cost about 6 000 oz in lost output. This followed a six-week illegal strike in March which resulted in lost production of 120 000 oz of platinum, as well as R2.4-billion in lost income.

Speaking during a conference call on the third-quarter results, Theron said that the company brought in independent parties to assist with the verification, which was expected to be complete in the next two or three weeks.

“At that time we would have a good understanding as to where the [union] support lies,” he said, adding that this would lead to a softening of attitudes.

“I am a little concerned that what we have witnessed until now seems like a game or strategy of winner takes all,” he said.

Amcu believed that it could gain majority support if it pushed harder, while NUM’s tactics indicated that it believed it could win back the employee support and remain majority union – an attitude Theron believed could lead to further intimidation and violence prior to the conclusion of the verification.

Implats’ gross platinum production fell 46% to 230 000 oz in the third quarter, compared with the 425 000 oz produced during the corresponding quarter the year before.

Production at Implats’ Rustenburg operations fell 146 000 oz - from 222 000 oz during the third quarter of 2011, to 76 000 oz during the corresponding period in 2012.

Following the third-quarter report, the company said it was nearly back on track, with the production of 50 000 oz of platinum at the operation in April.

As of the beginning of May production had reached 75% of the budgeted production levels and full production was expected to be achieved during June 2012.