Amplats strikes continue, talks set for Thursday

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Talks will resume on Thursday to seek an end to a strike that has brought most of the operations of South Africa's Anglo American Platinum to a standstill, the head of the union behind the stoppage said on Wednesday.

Workers downed tools last Friday in protest at Amplats' plans to cut 4,800 jobs, laying off 3,300 workers and paying off the rest, as the world's largest platinum producer and unit of Anglo American strives to restore profits.

"The strike is continuing. We had marathon meetings with the employer last night and will have another tomorrow and I believe that meeting should get us closer," Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), told Reuters.

Mathunjwa said AMCU wanted the company to provide voluntary separation packages for older miners near retirement and spare the jobs of younger workers, which the union says will bear the brunt of the lay-offs. Much of AMCU's membership in the platinum belt consists of younger miners.

AMCU emerged as the dominant union in the platinum shafts last year after poaching tens of thousands of members from the once unrivaled National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in a bloody turf war that killed dozens of people and sparked a wave of violent wildcat strikes.

Amplats suffered its first loss last year partly because of illegal strikes and the company has warned that the current action could put more jobs at risk.

This AMCU stoppage is legal and has so far been peaceful, in keeping with a change of tactics by the union as it grows, matures and plays by the rules.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Louise Heavens)