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Hundred thousand gold miners prepare to strike

Mineworkers’ wage demands were unreasonable and impossible for gold mines to meet, the SA Chamber of Mines’ chief negotiator, Frans Barker, said on Thursday.

”The problem is the National Union of Mineworkers’ demands are unreasonable and it is demanding a nearly 30% wage increase. If the union does not compromise, they will strike.

”We cannot afford the union’s demands,” Baker.

He said in all the negotiations with the union, there had been no positive outcome and there was a strong possibility that 100 000 workers would down tools on Sunday.

”If we meet the union’s demands we will permanently cripple the industry. We can only afford what we have offered which is far more than 10%,” he said.

Baker said if the strike went ahead as planned the loss of production would be R125-million a day, lost wages would be R50-million a day and the country would lose R125-million a day in exports.

”We have tried everything, we tried to repackage our offers, made further improvement in the offers but nothing happened.”

The strike targets big mining companies such as AngloGold, Gold Fields and Harmony. Two coal mines, Ingwe and Kuyasa, were also to be targeted, but NUM spokesperson Moferefere Lekorotsoana said they were taken off the list after a settlement was reached.

Lekorotsoana said the union’s demands were a 20% wages hike initially but had settled with other mining employers who had offered the workers a 10% increase and more.

He said the gold mining bosses were not prepared to go higher than 10% and, ”We cannot settle for less”.

The union was also demanding that a grading system for workers be reviewed, pushing them to higher grades, which would improve their salaries. He said the union has sent a written 48-hour strike notice to the three gold mining companies on Thursday.

He said the union did not sent a notice to strike to Kuyasa mine because its management had requested a meeting with the union on Friday to seek an amicable solution.

The union also had a meeting on Thursday with AngloGold and it offered an additional of .25% to the 9,5% salary increase but ”we rejected this latest move by AngloGold”, he said.

”It is evident that companies are not prepared to meet our demands on the job grading issues, having failed to meet for the last nine years.

”It stands to reason, therefore, that it is not necessarily the skill of black mineworkers that keeps them in lower job categories but entrenched racist practices by the managers of the mining industry,” Lekorotsoana said. – Sapa

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