South African mining company Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has sacked around half of the underground workers at its Mototolo mine following an alleged illegal strike.

The General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) served a strike notice to the company at the Mototolo mine on 9 May 2019 after a dispute over the changes made by the company regarding employees’ medical benefits, following the purchase of the mine from Glencore in November 2018.

The dispute reached South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the body which tried to broker an agreement between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Sibanye-Stillwater earlier this year.

The union told the CCMA of a unilateral change in employees’ conditions of service by the company. The company claimed that it has offered a medical scheme  with similar benefits.

On 10 May, Anglo American Platinum secured an interim court interdict against any strike action by GIWUSA at the mine.

However, workers belonging to the GIWUSA downed tools on 12 May despite an interim court interdict against any strike action, the company said.

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By GlobalData

Amplats said that it has dismissed 643 employees at Mototolo after its appeal to end the strike was ignored.

An official of the GIWUSA, the only recognised union at the mine, said that the union will take the dispute to the country’s labour courts.

According to Amplats, the fired employees have until 21 May to appeal the company’s decision.

“The union told the CCMA of a unilateral change in employees’ conditions of service by the company.”

The company said that the impact on production has so far been minimal and the company is exploring options to ensure that Mototolo mine resumes full production as soon as possible. The mine produced 57,700 ounces of platinum group metals in the first quarter of 2019.

Amplats had acquired Glencore’s 39% stake in the mechanised platinum mine in South Africa’s platinum belt in 2018.

Anglo American Platinum, a member of the Anglo American Group, has its mining, smelting and refining operations in South Africa.

The group also owns Unki Platinum Mine in Zimbabwe, in addition to joint ventures with several historically disadvantaged South African consortia as part of its commitment to the transformation of the mining industry.