JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Global miner Xstrata said on Wednesday it had withdrawn its offer for an employee share ownership programme at its South African operations due to a strike that hurt production of coal and ferrochrome.
Thousands of workers belonging to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) walked off the job on Sunday demanding equal compensation under a proposed share ownership programme, regardless of rank. The company’s plan compensates employees based on their level.
The Anglo-Swiss miner said it would not come back to the negotiating table while the industrial action is going on.
“Given that it was an optional scheme, we have now withdrawn the scheme and we’ve suspended discussions,” spokesman Songezo Zibi told Reuters.
“We will only be prepared to have further discussions on the scheme once workers have come back from strike.”
The NUM’s spokesman Lesiba Seshoka warned that his union would make Xstrata’s operations “ungovernable” should the company go ahead and fully cancel the programme.
“Their argument is that if we are unhappy about the scheme, the voluntary scheme, they are under no obligation to come up with that programme,” he said.
Around 5,180 workers or 43 percent of Xstrata’s total workforce in South Africa are members of the NUM.
The company has said that its coal operations were severely affected by the strike and there was some impact on its alloys operations, although supplies to customers were continuing.
“Product continues to be despatched to customers,” the company said on Wednesday.
Zibi said the company would be willing to negotiate with the union, but no meetings had been set up so far.
Xstrata employs just under 12,100 workers in South Africa, and three-quarters of them belong to unions.
The company’s South African operations produced 8.4 million tonnes of thermal coal and 581,000 tonnes of ferrochrome, used to make stainless steel, in the six months to the end of June.
The alloys operations also produce vanadium and platinum group metals.