Kumba open to talks to avert pay strike

South Africa’s Kumba Iron Ore said on Monday it was willing to hold fresh talks with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which plans to a strike next week after pay-rise talks collapsed.

The NUM said earlier on Monday that more than 6 000 workers at Kumba, a unit of global miner Anglo American, would go on strike after rejecting the company’s offer of wage increases between 7% and 9,5% on a two-year deal, depending on the worker’s category.

The NUM is demanding pay rises of between 7,5% and 10% on a one-year deal.

“Our doors are always open for discussions,” Kumba spokesperson Gert Schoeman said when asked if the company would seek fresh talks to avert a strike.

South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, has been hit by a wave of strikes and strike threats, which have led to pay settlements well above inflation — at 3,7% in July — and raised fears that the cost of living will rise.

“The decision to go on strike has been taken at Kumba, and a seven-day notice was served that the strike would begin next Monday,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said.

But Schoeman said Kumba, the 10th-largest global iron ore producer, had not received a formal notice from the NUM.

The union said it would press ahead with strike plans despite a possibility of new wage negotiations.

“A strike cannot be averted on the basis that there may be talks. We cannot rely on just an indication,” Seshoka said.

The union said last week the strike would affect Kumba’s Sishen, Kolomela and Thabazimbi operations.

Meanwhile, a strike at Northam Platinum entered its fourth week after the workers rejected the company’s revised wage offer last week, the union said.

About 80% of Northam’s 6 800 employees at its Zondereinde mine in South Africa have been on strike since September 5, shutting the entire operation and costing Northam 1 000 ounces per day in lost production of Platinum Group Metals.

Northam, one of South Africa’s smaller platinum producers, raised its offer to 9% last week from 8,5%, below NUM’s demand of a 15% increment. — Reuters

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