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NUM warns of wage disputes

One of the thousands
of mineworkers who
may be on strike soon
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 11 July 2008 – South Africa’s biggest mineworkers’ union has warned of what it calls “a big fight” with diamond producer De Beers and diversified miner Exxaro over wage disputes with the two mining giants.

Reuters reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) wants De Beers – 45% owned by global miner Anglo American, and the world’s top producer of diamonds – to raise workers’ wages by 13.5%, and not the 11% offered by the company.

The NUM and De Beers will meet with an arbitration authority on 21 July 2008 for mediation, and if an agreement is not reached, the union will launch industrial action. Under South African law, the arbitrator brokers negotiations to help speed a settlement, but if the two sides cannot agree the union can legally move to strike.

At Exxaro, the NUM has declared a dispute after the company refused to increase the minimum wage to R4 000, as well as to an increase of 17% for some workers, and 15 % for others.

“It is going to be a big, big fight,” said NUM negotiator at the companies Eddie Majadibodu.

“There is just no room for peanut increases, and for that we are prepared for war,” he threatened, emphasising that food prices, fuel prices and general inflation had sky-rocketed.

Reuters reports that officials at the two companies were unavailable for comment.

Thousands of South African workers downed tools on Wednesday to protest against a jump in food and fuel prices, as part of a series of rolling strikes called by labour federation COSATU.

Unions are increasingly demanding double-digit increases as South African inflation soars. The country’s annual CPIX inflation hit a fresh 5.5-year high in May, at 10.9%.