Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP) said it will rehire 15,000 of 17,200 workers it dismissed after an illegal strike that has halted output at its Rustenburg mine, the world’s biggest producer of the metal, for almost a month.
“We will have fewer employees, but I don’t think we are going to turn anyone away,” Group Executive for People Johan Theron said by phone from Johannesburg today. “Some people have been guilty of misconduct and those we will not take back. A number of people who didn’t want to get caught up in the violence took their exit medicals, and we don’t expect some of them to come back.” The situation at the mine was “calm” today though production hadn’t resumed, he added.
The Rustenburg mine has been shut for four weeks, costing the company about 3,000 ounces of platinum a day. Rock-drill operators went on an illegal strike in January after they didn’t get a pay increase awarded to miners. The majority of workers didn’t report for duty on Jan. 30, halting the mine and prompting the company to fire 17,200 workers.
Four have been killed so far and more than 54 injured in violence related to the strike at the operation, northwest of Johannesburg. Police dispersed miners gathering to protest last week by firing on crowds with rubber bullets. Shops were looted and roads blocked with burning tires.
Impala will re-employ the dismissed workers under their former terms and conditions if they apply by Feb. 29, the company said Feb. 25. The workers won’t be paid for the days on which they were on strike, it said.
Intimidation is the only hurdle stopping fired workers returning to their jobs, National Union of Mineworkers General Secretary Frans Baleni told reporters in Johannesburg today.
The local union structures were informed in a “casual manner” by Impala that it is planning to retain workers and salary adjustments will be made, but “no details were provided,” he said. “It’s a norm that such matters would have been discussed with the national office,” Baleni said.
RMB Morgan Stanley reduced its recommendation on Impala to “equal-weight” from “overweight,” analyst Simon Kendall said in an e-mailed note today.
“Impala is planning to rehire only 15,000 due to reduced operational capacity, and the cost will be severe,” Kendall wrote. “For the second fiscal half of 2012, we estimate about 190,000 ounces of platinum lost, or 46 percent of the second half of 2012.”
Impala shares retreated 2.7 percent, the biggest drop in the FTSE/JSE Africa Top 40 Index of the biggest companies, to 163.07 rand by 10:58 a.m. in Johannesburg, taking its decline since Jan. 20, when the rock-drill operators’ strike started, to 8.4 percent. Platinum fell for a third day, losing 0.7 percent to $1,700.50 an ounce.
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