By Agnieszka Flak, Reuters
* If talks fail, union to take dispute to arbitration
* Municipal workers ready for strike on Monday
world's second-largest producer and curb growth in an already stagnant economy.
The talks add to a wave of disputes that have already disrupted operations in the mining and fuel sectors. South Africa's "strike season" is already expected to intensify when at least 145,000 municipal workers walk off the job on Monday, disrupting rubbish collection and other services in major cities.
"There was no progress in the Implats talks at all last night. We will meet again today and if that fails as well, we will take the dispute to arbitration on Monday," said Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The talks started at 0800 GMT and are likely to last all day, he said.
The NUM, seeking a 14 percent raise for its 26,000 workers at Implats, has been discussing a revised but as yet undisclosed offer from Implats. It has rejected the company's previous offer
of between 7.5 and 8 percent.
Implats and its bigger rival Anglo American Platinum account for two-thirds of global platinum supply and any prolonged strike could push prices higher. Wage talks with
Amplats are scheduled for next week.
The NUM has also reached wage raise deals of 7.5 to 10 percent for its workers in the gold and coal sectors, with the figures expected to be benchmarks in the platinum talks. The union said on Friday it had reached a three-year wage deal with junior platinum producer Royal Bafokeng Platinum , with pay increases ranging from 7 to 10 percent.
Unions say employers should pass along the benefits of high precious metal prices to workers, who often have several dependents, facing higher food and fuel bills. mployers have responded to increasing wage bills by shedding jobs and with a sluggish economic recovery, the outlook for a labour market suffering from 25 percent unemployment is not encouraging.
Economists have cautioned that wage settlements well above the current 5 percent inflation rate erode South Africa's global competitiveness by driving up the cost of a labour force already
more expensive and less efficient than those in rival emerging economies.
The ruling African National Congress, in a governing alliance with labour, does not want to antagonise a group that has supplied it with millions of votes by putting pressure on unions to seek more modest deals.
Strained labour relations in South Africa have lengthened the list of investors' concerns that include nationalisation talk in ruling party circles and high rates of violent crime linked to glaring income disparities and high unemployment.