National Union of Mineworkers says strike 'unavoidable'

A strike is looming in the mining sector, the National Union of Mineworkers said on Thursday.

The union reached a deadlock in its negotiations with the Chamber of Mines’ gold employers on Thursday, spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said in a statement.

“The Chamber of Mines offered 7% against NUM’s demand of 15%.

“The deadlock will now move to the [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] for possible conciliation, failure of which a certificate of non-resolution to the dispute will be given to the union.”

The impasse could see over 150 000 gold mineworkers downing tools.

Seshoka said the NUM’s national congress had, in the past fortnight, instructed the union’s leadership to get a 15% wage hike or let the industry face the “ire of the workers”.

“It has always been our intention to bargain in good faith, to try reach a settlement through negotiations ... but this year looks like we will have to use a different tool in strike action,” NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said.

“Strike action is and has always been the last resort. It is unavoidable this year.”

Trade union Solidarity said professional help was now needed in the negotiation process.

“A facilitator from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration will have to take the process forward.
The consumer price index is currently at 8,4% and organised labour will not accept an offer that does not take this into account,” union spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans said in a statement.

“In January the D bands of AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony received increases of between 10% and 15%. Now it is the turn of the B and C bands to also receive a double-digit increase.”

UASA viewed the “meagre offer” as an insult.

“The employers offered a R100 adjustment to housing allowances and absolutely no adjustment in medical aid subsidies,” Franz Stehring, the union’s divisional manager responsible for mine workers, said in a statement.

He said over the past seven to eight years medical inflation consistently outstripped normal inflation by approximately 7%.

“The total offer tabled by management will only impoverish our members and we cannot even think of taking it back to our members.”

The Chamber of Mines said the dispute was declared against the background of the parties having reached agreement on some demands,
including skills development, employee share ownership plans and protective clothing for women working underground.

Harmony indicated to the unions that it would like to explore a further wage offer, the Chamber said.

Elize Strydom, who negotiates on behalf of gold mining companies, said there were some issues that could be better dealt with in a “facilitated process”.

She said the companies would find solutions and a real balance between the needs of employees and of the companies. - Sapa

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