Johannesburg, South Africa — 30 August 2013 – The Chamber of Mines of South Africa remains optimistic that a strike in the country’s gold sector can be averted.
“A strike in our industry is not necessarily a foregone conclusion, and we have not received strike notices from any of the unions,” Harmony CEO Graham Briggs was quoted as saying on behalf of the gold producers by Fin24.
“It goes without saying that our aim, as an industry, is to avoid industrial action, which is damaging at so many levels,” he added.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was in talks with its members yesterday about the possibility of embarking on a strike in the gold sector next week.
“By today we should know what the consensus from our members is,” said NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka. “If they want to strike, we will send a notice of strike action to the Chamber of Mines, but we have to look at other avenues of engagement.”
On Tuesday, the union rejected ‘with contempt’ the final pay offer made by the chamber.
At the time, Seshoka said the offer was a joke and that the chamber was being ridiculous.
Gold mining companies, represented by the Chamber of Mines, had offered a basic increase of 6.5% for category four and five employees, including rock drill operators. The gold mining companies were AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Rand Uranium, Harmony Gold, Evander Gold, Sibanye Gold, and Village Main Reef.
The chamber offered 6% on the basic wage of category six to eight employees, and to miners and artisans, and officials. In addition, accommodation allowances would be increased in accordance with the consumer price index.
“Our final offer is just that, a final offer, and it remains on the table,” Biggs said. “It is an offer that has been well-considered and debated at length and is, in my view, a good offer.”
Using 2012 figures as a base, Biggs said a single day of strike action across the gold industry would have dire financial implications.“The total economic cost is close to R597 million per day,” Biggs estimated.
“Last year, unprotected strike action in the gold sector cost around R5 billion," he said.
Biggs said the chamber would not settle individually with unions.
“We have been inclusive in our approach, inviting and welcoming all unions who represent significant numbers of employees to the table,” he said.
“The industry is not prepared to enter into mine-specific agreements on wages and conditions of employment.” He said separate deals would only increase rivalry, serve to incite violence and result in an unworkable outcome.
The trade union Solidarity said the chamber had lost its moral and ethical compass after breaking an agreement with the union to declare negotiations deadlocked.
“Neither did the chamber give feedback on Solidarity’s request for an extension until the end of next week in order to consult its members on the chamber’s final offer,” said general secretary Gideon du Plessis in a statement.
He added that the chamber had given collective bargaining a ‘deathblow’ when it refused to negotiate with Solidarity. The union was still committed to a negotiated settlement.
Source: Fin24. For more information, click here.