/ 4 August 2006

Unions divided over Kumba offer

Unions that have launched strikes at the Kumba mining company have taken separate paths since Kumba made an offer on Wednesday.

While labour union Solidarity said in a statement on Friday that it had accepted 7,75% and 8,75% pay hike offers, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the Black Allied Mining and Construction Workers’ Union (BAMCWU) have rejected it.

NUM, which has the largest following in the company, says the offer is R44 shy of a settlement.

”Members feel that their contribution needs to be recognised and, as such, affirmed. Consequently, they opted to reject the offer,” spokesperson Eddie Majadibodu said.

He said NUM and the two other unions were prepared to settle for 8% and 9%, contrary to their initial demand of a 9% for higher category earners and 10% for lower earners.

”This in our view would be a good compromise which we think will bring the strike to a halt and ensure that we return to work as soon as possible,” he said.

”The union believes that its proposed settlement offer goes a long way in trying to meet the company half way and, at the same time, cover the needs and aspirations of the workers.

Despite NUM’s decision to go on with the strike, Solidarity’s 15 000 members have decided to go back to work.

”Solidarity members will only perform their own tasks and not those of striking workers.

”This will support the efforts of trade unions NUM and BAMCWU, who are persisting in continued strike action for higher wages,” spokesperson Reint Dykema said.

He said Kumba could have averted the strike had it not given workers the impression that it would rather invest in machinery equipment and new developments than on its workers.

”During the CCMA mediation that preceded the issuing of a strike certificate, it emerged that parties were a mere 0,5% away from a settlement … but Kumba opted to neglect its most important asset, the workers.”

Kumba spokesperson Trevor Arran confirmed receiving an acceptance letter from Solidarity but said they were still awaiting a response from NUM.

Asked how the week-long strike had affected the company, Arran said no major disruptions had been reported.

”We are still able to supply our customers on time but we will review the situation over the weekend, pending NUM’s response.”

Kumba mines dolomite, iron ore, coal, base metals and heavy minerals.

Its affected mines are Grootgeluk, Thabazimbi, Tsikondeni, SishenLeeuwpan, and Glen Douglas. – Sapa