De Beers
mineworkers at a
community meeting
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 24 July 2008 – Diamond producing giant De Beers – the world’s top diamond producer – is continuing wage talks with South Africa’s largest mineworkers’ union – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) – in a bid to avert a strike at its mines in the country.

Making this announcement here today, De Beers spokesman Tom Tweedy said: “We don’t have an agreement signed, but we’re optimistic that we have an attractive offer on the table. We’re optimistic that we’ll find a settlement,” he added.

Reuters reports that a spokesman for NUM, which represents 3 400 workers at De Beers, was not immediately available for comment. The union had announced a one-day strike scheduled to begin this evening to press its demands for a 13.5% wage increase.

De Beers – which is 45% owned by mining group Anglo American – has offered 11% over two years. The union called for the strike after an arbitration authority failed to successfully mediate the wage dispute.

The Reuters report adds that miners in South Africa have been demanding double-digit wage increases to soften the blow of rising fuel, food and electricity prices, as well as a string of interest rate hikes that have made house and car loans more expensive.

Workers across the country have held a series of rolling strikes to protest against the cost of living. The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions is spurring on the protests, which will culminate in a national strike next month.

South Africa’s inflation rate is hovering above 10%.