South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) vowed on Monday to carry on fighting for higher wages at Northam Platinum despite the firm warning that a three-week strike by over 7,000 workers was threatening its survival.
The mid-tier platinum producer, which produces around 1,000 ounces of platinum group metals a day, said the strike had cost it over 200 million rand. Striking employees have lost 30 million rand in wages.
"This is the fight of our lives. If we cannot fight now we may as well forget to exist," NUM's negotiator at Northam, Ecliff Tansi, told Reuters.
"This is also not going to be the first Christmas they spend without money. So it is better to fight now to ensure the future is brighter."
[DATA NHM:Northam Platinum Ltd.] said in a letter to NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni and published in the Business Day newspaper that a protracted strike would "undermine the long-term viability of Northam and could threaten jobs".
The company also said its latest offer for wage hikes of between eight and nine per cent - well above inflation of 5.5 per cent - was its final one.
NUM has been pushing for increases of up to 40 percent and ridiculed the company's decision to appeal to the union through the media.
"We are surprised with this approach," Baleni told Reuters. "If they wanted to talk to us they should have just picked up the phone."
Northam is one of the few platinum producers where NUM still represents a majority of workers.
The union lost tens of thousands of members last year to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) in a bloody turf war that left dozens of people dead and sparked a wave of wildcat strikes.
NUM's tough stance at Northam stems in part from its need to counteract AMCU militancy and retain its remaining members.
AMCU remains in wage talks with the world's top three producers of the precious metal, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, where it has majority representation.