February 2, 2012 / 11:39 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-S.Africa's Implats fires 13,000 workers

(Adds trade union comment)

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Impala Platinum , the world’s second largest platinum producer, said on Thursday it had dismissed 13,000 employees, bringing to 17,200 those sacked since the start of a labour dispute almost two weeks ago.

Workers were given until Wednesday to return to work at its Rustenburg operations or face dismissal.

A process of rehiring, which could give the fired workers a chance to reapply for their jobs, would be “undertaken in due course”, the company said in a statement.

The stoppage is costing Implats 3,000 platinum ounces a day in lost production.

The dispute centres on retention bonuses awarded to only part of the workforce. The latest round of dismissals follows the firing of drill operators who initiated a stay-away a fortnight ago that was declared illegal by a court.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was disappointed the company had resorted to firing-and-rehiring.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the process of rehiring took a long time and the longer it took, the harder the operations would be hit.

The trade union believes that many of those dismissed were not on strike but prevented from reporting for work due to intimidation.

“Workers could simply not get to work safely,” he said.

Safety stoppages have also hit platinum output across the sector in South Africa, which accounts for about 80 percent of the global supply of the precious metal.

Platinum’s spot price is up over 15 percent since the start of the year to over $1,600 an ounce.

Implats’ share price was down 2.4 percent at 1254 GMT, underperforming the benchmark top 40 index, which was 0.7 percent higher. (Reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas; Editing by Ed Stoddard)

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