Strike Looms in SA Gold Sector

Source:

"National Union of Mineworkers. . .said it was giving gold companies until Tuesday. . .to make an improved wage offer."

Labor unions were preparing for a potential strike in the gold sector, saying that this year's wage negotiations were simply dragging on too long.

Spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Lesiba Seshoka said it was giving gold companies until Tuesday, when the wage negotiations were set to continue, to make an improved wage offer or it would ask the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for permission to strike.

Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans told Mining Weekly Online that while it had not yet set such a deadline, it too could only give the gold companies a few more days to improve their offer, as this year's negotiations were taking "extremely" long to conclude.

Wage negotiations for the gold sector moved to the CCMA a month ago, after talks had deadlocked over a 7% wage offer from AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields.

The current wage agreement had already lapsed on June 30, with the latest offer from AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields being 8% for the higher category workers and 10% for the lower category workers.

Harmony Gold had made an offer of a 6.5% increase for all categories of workers, with possible additional increases linked to the gold price.

However, Kleynhans said that the current offer was not reasonable and that it expected at least a double-digit increase.

He explained that the union was open for negotiations and would not necessarily seek the 15% increase it had initially demanded, but said that it looked at the average inflation in 2008, at 11.5%, and the average inflation for this year, at about 8%, and felt that a double-digit increase would be reasonable.

The NUM, meanwhile, has also lowered its demands to 13.6%, down from the 15% it, too, had initially demanded.

The Chamber of Mines' (CoM's) Dr. Elize Strydom, who negotiates on behalf of the gold mining companies, said she would be disappointed if the labor unions have already made up their minds about asking for a certificate to proceed with industrial action before the parties met again on Tuesday.

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