Johannesburg, South Africa — 03 October 2012 – Gold Fields and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have settled their differences over working conditions and an operational model at the company’s South Deep mine, providing one exception to an otherwise worsening labour relations landscape in the South African mining industry.
Miningmx reports that the agreement also lifted uncertainty over some 2,300 jobs, around 74% of the mine’s current workforce, which were under the cloud of a Section 189 process. In addition, Gold Fields said the new operating model would create another 400 jobs by the time the mine reached full production of 700,000ozpa in 2015.
The Section 189 process was initially started on 2 August, a week before a strike by 3,000 rock drill operators at Lonmin’s Marikana ignited a chain of unprotected strikes across the South African mining industry.
Some 24,000 workers remain on strike at the company’s KDC West and Beatrix operations.
South Deep, the last of the un-mined gold treasures to be offered up by the West Witwatersrand gold fields, is the only South African gold project included in Gold Fields’ strategy to take group gold production to 5Mozpa by 2015. By that time, South African assets would contribute 40% of the group’s total gold production, from 49% today.
According to Gold Fields spokesperson, Sven Lunsche, the settlement would cost Gold Fields some R170 million up-front in return for improved productivity and performance commitments from the workforce.
Among some of the key elements of the agreement, all underground operational personnel in the lower job categories would go onto a 12-hour rotation shift structure in cycles of four days. This implies a worker will work for four days, have four days off, followed by four nights on and four nights off.
Also, from 2013, the Christmas break would start on December 23, translating into an effective 12 day Christmas holiday.
“The benefits of this agreement are that South Deep will have five more working hours per day, which is a 25% improvement,” read a company statement. “In addition, South Deep will have seven more production days per year. Employees will on average work 50 days less per year.”
In addition, an existing bonus scheme for underground employees would be discontinued and a new, uncapped productivity-linked bonus scheme would be implemented.
“The majority of workers would earn more than they do now if they meet and exceed targets,” said Lunsche. He added the company didn’t expect the current wave of strikes to spread to South Deep, saying the mine largely employed skilled and semi-skilled workers due to its mechanised structure.
“Their salaries are already better than the rest of the industry,” he said, adding the agreement has resolved all outstanding issues between the union and the group dating back to a strike of 2010.
Source: Miningmx. For more information, click here.