Is the End to SA's Mining Strike Debacle in Sight?


"AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold, via the Chamber of Mines, have signed a deal today with unions that will see adjustments to workers pay."

AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold, via the Chamber of Mines, have signed a deal today with unions that will see adjustments to workers pay being made under the existing two year wage agreements as proposed on 9 October.

In terms of the agreement a new operator level would be created within the entry level category 4 for loader, locomotive, winch and water jet operators. Basic rates for this category would be adjusted by between R250 and R400 per month.

Rock drill operators will see either an increase in basic rate of R500 or receive an allowance of R400.

The entry level wage, referred to as a category 3 worker, would be done away with, making the category 4 worker now the new entry level wage. Category 4 to 8 employees would also receive an increase of between 1.5% and 2%.

Reuters quoted the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as saying that this would increase the entry level wage by R160 per month from R4 840 to R5 000 per month. This equates to a 3.3% increase.

If the annual increases under the existing wage agreement, which were implemented in July and range between 8.5% and 10% are added to the abovementioned adjustments then the cumulative increases for workers would range between 11% and 20.8% said NUM.

Except for details around the specific numbers and percentages, the deal concluded today is aligned with the proposal made on 9 October which was rejected by striking workers.

NUM, Lesiba Seshoka, said via text message that the increases of between 3% and 10.8% for operators and rock drillers had changed from the original proposals made and the final deal signed today.

After workers rejected the proposals made earlier in the month, the gold mining companies took a hard line and started issuing ultimatums for workers to report for duty at specific deadlines or face immediate dismissal. This tactic seems to have had mixed results.

Harmony said that most of its workers had reported for duty today at its Kusasalethu mine after adhering to the ultimatum issued. Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti, however, face the prospect of having to fire around 20 000 employees who have defied the deadlines given.

Dr Elize Strydom, senior executive of employment relations at the Chamber of Mines, said "stability in the gold mining industry has been achieved at many of the operations and there are hopes that this trend will continue. The safe resumption of normal mining operations is now the top priority".

The impact that these changes will have on the company wage bills is yet to seen with the likes of Harmony choosing to share this in its quarterly results on Wednesday, 7 November 2012. AngloGold said that the settlement would increase is South African wage bill by 2.5%.

"The gold companies and the unions are determined collectively to chart a way forward for the industry that will strengthen the structures of collective bargaining and avoid a repetition of recent events. In this regard, the on-going work of the Sindisa Gold initiative aimed at optimising the use of the mining assets and improving productivity with a completion deadline of March 2013 will be critical" said Dr Strydom.

Christy Filen

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