Johannesburg, South Africa — 17 July 2013 – South Africa’s gold sector wage talks have opened with the Chamber of Mines offering a 4% increase and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) rejecting the offer as an insult” and warning of looming confrontation in the fraught sector.
BDlive reports that seven gold companies are engaged in the talks with four unions. Demands for entry-level wage increases have ranged from 60% to 100%, while the companies, represented by the chamber at centralised talks, have responded with a counter-offer of 4%, which the NUM warned was “setting the scene for confrontation”.
“We view this in a very serious light. We reject the offer made with the contempt it deserves. It wags a middle finger at the workers. It’s an insult,” said NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka.
The NUM represents about 65% of unionised gold miners.
Gold mining CEOs have made it clear in recent months that a double-digit wage hike is untenable given the weak gold price and soaring costs of electricity, materials and other above-inflation increases in recent years.
Elize Strydom, the chief negotiator on behalf of the companies, said the unions had to be realistic given the economic realities.
Asked on a media call what it would mean for the gold sector if the unions pushed for their demands to be met, Strydom said: “It would be dire. The future of the industry is at stake. We need to become realistic and we all need to be very responsible and show leadership to do collectively what needs to be done to sustain this industry going forward.”
The talks will resume on July 24. The unions have asked the companies to reconsider the proposed increase, while the chamber had made the same request of the unions,Strydom said.
The offer to increase basic wages by 4% would add R900 million a year to companies’ costs and bring the sector’s wage bill to R29 billion a year. Ms Strydom could not comment on what the unions’ demands would do to wage bills.
A task team in the gold sector wage talks would convene and try to resolve the issue around protocols ahead of the resumption of talks next week. “We’ll deal with the matter at the next plenary,” Strydom said, declining to say whether it had the potential to derail the wage talks.
Source: BDlive. For more information, click here.