Unions in the gold mining sector have declared a dispute which could lead to 140 000 employees downing tools, the Chamber of Mines and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Wednesday.
“The way forward from here is that the unions will approach the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] to appoint a facilitator,” said Elize Strydom, who is negotiating on behalf of the gold mining companies.
“We hope that the facilitator will be able to bring us closer together.”
NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said this could pave the way for “massive industry-wide strike action affecting both coal and gold producers”.
The NUM and the United Association of SA (Uasa) wanted a wage increase of 14%, while Solidarity wanted 12%.
Last week, the chamber offered a 5% wage increase for the lowest paid employees and 4.5% for the rest.
On Wednesday, AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields upped their offer to a 5.5% wage increase for the lowest paid employees and 5% for all other employees, the chamber said.
Harmony and Rand Uranium offered 5.3% for the lowest paid employees and 4.8% for all other employees.
“This was followed by a declaration of a dispute by the unions,” the chamber said.
Seshoka earlier said talks would probably deadlock because wage offers in the coal sector had always been better than the gold industry.
He said the union had already mobilised its members for a possible strike as it believed the chamber was dragging its feet on salary negotiations.
The NUM, Uasa and Solidarity represent about 140 000 employees working for companies that belong to the chamber.
Solidarity submitted a lower figure in light of the production environment and the 4.6% consumer price inflation.
It felt its figure, although still above inflation, would help retain skilled employees.
The chamber recently said production in the gold mining industry had consistently declined and it faced pressure from the high costs of electricity, water and fuel. — Sapa