January 26, 2007

Strike at Modikwa platinum mine-union

Mineworkers launched a strike at South Africa's Modikwa platinum mine in a dispute over benefits amid allegations of racial discrimination, but mine officials said output was continuing. About 3.000 members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) out of a total workforce of 5.000 failed to show up for work at the mine, the union and part owner African Rainbow Minerals Ltd (ARM) said. NUM Regional Coordinator Onis Serothwane said the strike had halted operations at the mine, located in the country's northeast Limpopo province, and jointly owned by ARM and Anglo Platinum Ltd. But ARM said production was continuing thanks to contract workers who were still on the job.

The union received a strike certificate from government authorities after negotiations broke down over benefits, such as the allowances that enable workers to move out of single-sex hostels into their own accommodation, Rorich said. Serothwane agreed that conditions of service was an issue, but also said racial discrimination was a big problem at the mine and had helped spark the strike. Whites would use derogatory terms against blacks and supervisors did nothing to stop it, he said. The NUM is South Africa's biggest mineworkers union. ARM, one of South Africa's biggest black-owned mining groups, owns 41.5 percent of Modikwa in a joint venture with Angloplat, the biggest platinum producer in the world. Modikwa produced 293.313 ounces of platinum group metals in concentrate during the financial year to end June. (Rts)

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