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South African mineworkers 'prepare for strike' this week: spokesman

Source: Pixabay, November 5, 2019

South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which represents some 190,000 members, has said it is prepared to go on strike against miner Glencore, if an agreement is not reached over an ongoing industrial dispute, an official spokesman for the union told S&P Global Platts Monday.

The initial dispute was regarding working and living conditions for mine employees at Glencore, according to an official statement fromthe NUM last week.

"The union is perturbed by how Glencore treats NUM members and workers in general," the statement said.

"Glencore was given seven days to respond to our memorandum. If Glencore does not respond positively, the NUM will mobilize its membersto go on strike," Livhuwani Mammburu, official spokesman for the union said.

The spokesman said the union had submitted a request to Glencore on Friday and would await a response before planning a strike date.

"We haven't applied for a strike. We are still waiting for Glencore to respond to our memorandum that we submitted last week," the spokesman said.

NUM members embarked on a one-day strike at Glencore's regional offices in Witbank on Friday, and said it would escalate this strike action to members "in the whole province of Mpumalanga" should there be no resolution.

"If nothing positive comes out of this peaceful march [Friday] the NUM will mobilize its members in the whole province of Mpumalanga toembark on a full-blown strike," said Tshilidzi Mathavha, NUM Highveld Regional Secretary.

Glencore said it was aware of Friday's protest and that it was engaged "at various levels" with the union. Glencore said it would "continue to discuss matters of common interest with unions and to engage on any concerns raised."

Since the initial announcement on Thursday there had been limited impact of the South African FOB thermal coal market, sources said.

While prices for prompt months in both the physical and futures markets rose over that time, some sources said it could be more opportunistic trading rather than any genuine fear of supply interruptions.

Platts FOB Richards Bay 5,500 kcal/kg NAR physical price was assessed at $53.05/mt on Monday, up $1.80 week on week, although the movement wasn't necessarily driven by the strike action, as returning spot demand from key export market India was heard keeping pricing buoyant.

The benchmark-grade 6,000 kcal/kg NAR also traded higher. It traded last Tuesday at $66/mt FOB Richards Bay, and then $4 higher at $70/mt after the NUM announcement.

Glencore produced 21.2 million mt of thermal coal from its South African operations in the first nine months of the year, according to the company's third-quarter production results, and also has numerous metals production in the country.

News Source: S&P Global