Unions reach wage agreement with two gold mines

Strike action could result in daily losses of millions of rands if all production was halted. (Gallo)

Strike action could result in daily losses of millions of rands if all production was halted. (Gallo)

Early settlements indicated that constructive outcomes could be reached, said the chamber's chief negotiator in the gold wage talks Elize Strydom on Wednesday.

"That the producers and the unions can find one another in the interests of preserving these operations indicates our mutual desire to achieve an affordable and sustainable settlement," said Strydom.

"The settlements reached by these companies are [an] 8% increase in basic wages for category four and five employees, including rock drill operators.

"A 7.5% increase in basic wages for category six to eight employees, [including] miners, artisans, and officials," said Strydom.

The National Union of Mineworkers said the settlements were mine-specific and did not change the dynamics of the strike in other mines.

"The workers at those mines agreed to those terms and understand what it means for them," said spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka.

Earlier, Seshoka vehemently denied reports that the union was ready to settle on a 10% increase on wages.

"We just said we would be willing to ease our demands but it must be a double-digit increase that is worth the workers' while.

"We are still at a [wage] increase of R2 300 for surface miners, and R3 000 for underground miners," he said.

Surface workers currently earn R4 700 per month and underground workers earn R5 000.

Mines severely affcted by striike
Most gold mines have been severely affected by the sector strike, the Chamber of Mines said on Wednesday.

Gold producers' representative spokesperson Charmane Russell said less than 20% of the work force arrived for shifts at the affected mines since the strike action started on Tuesday.

This is according to an update posted on goldwagenegotiations.co.za, which is hosted by the Chamber of Mines. It showed that only six out of 23 listed mines were fully operational.

The companies represented by the chamber are AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Rand Uranium, Harmony Gold, Evander Gold, Sibanye Gold, and Village Main Reef.

According to the site, Sibanye's Driefontein mine, Evander Gold, AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng, Davuka, TauTona, and Village Main Reef were fully operational.

AngloGold Ashanti mines in the Vaal River operated on "essential services only".

Russell said the strike action could result in daily losses of millions of rands if all production was halted.

"If A 100% of all mines weren't in operation, that would potentially lose the producers R350-million and employees could lose R100-million in wages daily."

'Overwhelming' support
​Earlier, the National Union of Mineworkers said support for the gold mining sector strike was "overwhelming".

"There has been an overwhelming response to the strike," spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said. "The strike will carry on indefinitely until our demands are met."

Seshoka repeatedly dismissed reports the union was ready to settle on a 10% increase on wages.

"We just said we would be willing to ease our demands but it must be a double-digit increase that is worth the workers' while.

"We are still at a [wage] increase of R2 300 for surface miners, and R3 000 for underground miners," he said.

Surface workers currently earn R4 700 per month and underground workers earn R5 000.
This equates to a 49% wage increase for surface workers and a 60% wage increase for underground workers.

Seshoka said the NUM had submitted the above figures to employers, and not a percentage. Although no talks were scheduled as yet, the chamber showed a willingness to further negotiate.

"The chamber [of mines] is now crying like a newborn baby because operations were severely affected."

The employers offered a basic increase of 6.5% for category four and five employees, including rock drill operators.

An offer of 6% on the basic wage was made to category six to eight, as well as to miners, artisans, and officials. In addition, accommodation allowances would be increased in accordance with the consumer price index. – Sapa

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