Harmony CEO
Graham Briggs
Johannesburg, South Africa — 02 September 2013 – The Chamber of Mines of South Africa has confirmed that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which represents about 64% of gold miners in the country, will start a strike over pay from September 3.

The chamber has made a final offer to boost pay by 6 to 6.5% for about 142,000 workers covered by wage talks, reports Bloomberg News. The NUM wants starting salaries increased by as much as 60%. So far only UASA, which makes up almost 7% of gold miners, has said it’s ready to take the employers’ offer.

All four unions would have to accept the chamber’s offer, according to the terms of the deal which expired yesterday. Companies including AngloGold Ashanti Limited, the world’s third-largest producer, Sibanye Gold Limited, Harmony Gold Mining Company and Gold Fields Limited would be affected by a strike.

“Employers remain open to discussions,” the Johannesburg-based industry body said in an e-mailed statement. Companies are making plans “to ensure the continuation of essential services” in anticipation of a strike.

UASA members are concerned about consequences from strike action including possible job losses and violence, Franz Stehring, head of mining for the union, said in an interview. “The overwhelming majority of our members accepted the offer under duress.”

Entry-level underground miners earn R5,000 (US$484) a month before housing allowances and bonuses, according to the chamber. The NUM wants this to rise to R8,000. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the second-biggest gold labour group, is demanding an increase to R12,500 a month, while Solidarity wants 8.3% more.

“It’s totally unlikely that we will accept,” Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said in a phone interview. “We will not do the work of any of the striking NUM members and will not participate in essential services during the action,” he added. Its members account for more than 2% of gold miners, according to the chamber.

The chamber has received formal notice from NUM of a strike starting on the night shift. Gold One International Limited said it had also received a notice of a strike to start on Sept 3. “Management has contingency plans in place,” the Sydney-based producer said in a statement issued via the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

 “The gold industry is at stake and we believe part of South Africa is at stake,” Harmony CEO Graham Briggs said at a weekend press conference here.

“Without a pact, producers have the option of applying for a certificate of non-resolution and locking out workers. A lockout would be a fairly drastic step,” Briggs said.

A strike could cost South Africa’s gold industry, the biggest in Africa, R349 million a day in lost revenue, according to the chamber.

Source: Bloomberg News. For more information, click here.