JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) on Tuesday lowered its wage demands for the first time, raising hopes of a breakthrough after nearly six weeks of strikes at the world's top platinum producers.
AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa told a media briefing the union was now seeking staggered increases that would take the basic entry wage to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month in three years' time, compared to its original demand for increase to be immediate.
The union's demand for 12,500 rand is more than double current levels. Mining companies Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin have offered increases of up to 9 percent, saying they cannot afford steep wage hikes.
AMCU will meet with the producers later in the day for further talks. Mathunjwa said the revised demand was made last week and was made to "give the employers a breather."
In exchange, Mathunjwa said AMCU was willing to scale back or put on hold demands for allowances such as for housing.
Despite the scale of the strike which has hit 40 percent of global production of the precious metal, platinum prices fell immediately after the stoppage began on January 23, reaching a one-month low in early February, as traders bet that the availability of above-ground stocks would cushion demand.
The spot price has clawed back those losses as the action has become prolonged, climbing back this week to the levels reached in the run-up to the strike. At 0920 GMT it was 0.4 percent lower on the day at $1,446.99 an ounce.
($1 = 10.8163 South African rand)
(Reporting and writing by Ed Stoddard; Additional reporting by Jan Harvey in London; editing by David Dolan)