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Relief for mining industry

Eskom power “’
the strike is off
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVVIEW.COM — 05 July 2010 – The South African mining industry is one of the main sectors of the economy to breathe a sigh of relief, following the weekend announcement by trade unions that they have called off a planned strike at the power utility Eskom.

The unions made the announcement after receiving a higher wage offer, ending concern about power supplies during the football World Cup. Widespread power cuts could also have dented mining and manufacturing companies’ output in South Africa, which is the world’s top platinum and fourth-largest gold producer.

Eskom had said it would be illegal to strike at the utility because it was an essential service, and warned that it would punish strikers who had planned to go on strike this week.

“We think that it is a very serious offer and ask our members to seriously review it. We are not in a position to support an illegal strike by workers,” National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim, told a media briefing.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Numsa said they felt 9% was the best offer they could get from Eskom, and conceded that a strike would have been illegal under South African law.

The decision was taken jointly by officials of Numsa and NUM, the biggest union at Eskom with about half of the 32 000 staff. Numsa has some 7 500 members at the utility, similar to a third union, Solidarity, which had asked Eskom to revise its offer by Monday before deciding whether to join the strike.

Eskom’s new offer came in last ditch talks at the weekend with the unions.

The unions said Eskom had raised its offer to 9% from 8.5%, nearly double South Africa’s inflation rate of 4.6%, and had said it would pay a R1 500 per month housing allowance, up from its previous offer of R1 000.