South African mill faces labor strike

Spain-based Acerinox SA’s stainless steel mill in Africa is facing a strike over pay after two South African labor unions rejected the company’s latest wage offer. Workers at Columbus Stainless Pty Ltd, based in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, are set to go on strike after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa issued the company with a strike notice, Columbus said in an e-mailed statement on 1 September 2010. That came after the Solidarity union earlier declared a dispute with the company after wage talks failed. Acerinox wants to keep any pay increase within the terms of a five-year wage agreement signed in July 2008, company spokesman Juan Garcia said by phone from Madrid. Solidarity wants a 10% increase for its workers, while NUMSA, as the union is known, is calling for 8%, said Columbus, which is offering an average of 5.5%. South Africa’s inflation rate fell to 3.7% in July from 4.2% a month earlier. Contingency plans have been put in place to ensure that supplies of stainless steel aren’t affected by the strike, Columbus Chief Executive Officer Dave Martin said. Acerinox owns a 76% stake in Columbus, which exports to the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, while Samancor, a joint venture between Anglo American Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd, also has a stake in the South African steelmaker.

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