Johannesburg, South Africa — 09 September 2013 – More than 60,000 South African gold miners began resuming work last night after a 48-hour strike, as they accepted an 8% pay increase from companies including AngloGold Ashanti Limited and Sibanye Gold Limited.
The increase to R5,400 (US$540) a month for entry-level pay is 33% below the R8,000 demanded by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which represents two-thirds of gold miners, reports Bloomberg News. The offer has been accepted by most NUM members, except those working at some of Harmony Gold Mining Company’s mines, spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.
Agreeing to the proposal brings nearer the end of a strike that may have cost the industry as much as R349 million (US$34 million) a day in sales, according to the Chamber of Mines, which represents producers.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), an NUM rival that speaks for 20% of the industry’s 107,000 gold employees, is yet to see the offer and to discuss its response, president Joseph Mathunjwa said. The AMCU has asked for R12,500 a month.
The wage deal is “a little more than employers would have preferred,” the chamber’s chief negotiator, Elize Strydom, said in the statement. “The agreement has helped us prevent a longer period of damaging industrial action and remains a reasonably balanced outcome in terms of affordability and job preservation.”
“The workers themselves are saying they are happy,” Seshoka said.
Employees who are not entry-level or rock drill operators will receive a 7.5% increase backdated to July 1, the chamber said in an e-mailed statement. Inflation-linked increases from July 2014 and a housing allowance increase to R2,000 from R1,640 are also included in the agreement, the chamber said.
South Africa’s annual consumer price inflation rate was 6.3% in July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said any increase above CPI isn’t sustainable in the long-run..
AngloGold’s six mines reported normal shifts, according to the NUM’s Seshoka and an update posted on the chamber’s website. The company is focusing on resuming output safely, it said in a statement. Two of Sibanye’s three sites are operating today and the remaining mine will resume operations this evening, spokesman James Wellsted said.
The NUM called a strike on September 3 after employers had failed to meet pay demands for as much as 60%. The chamber said on August 29 that its offer for a 6 to 6.5% raise was final.
Gold production is still being hindered by the pay dispute. Ten of Harmony’s 11 operations continue to be affected by the strike, spokeswoman Marian van der Walt said by phone. Workers at Gold Fields Limited’s South Deep mine aren’t yet back at work, Sven Lunsche, a company spokesman, said by phone, adding that they may report for duty later today.
Mines where the AMCU has the biggest membership continued to operate normally, the chamber said. The AMCU is the largest union at AngloGold’s Mponeng, Harmony’s Kusasalethu and Sibanye’s Driefontein sites. The three mines are the companies’ biggest South African operations.
The AMCU is bound to accept the wage deal agreed by NUM members at mines where it is the minority labour representative Mathunjwa said. It isn’t compelled to agree to the proposal at Mponeng, Kusasalethu and Driefontein, he added.
The chamber estimates that his week’s strike may cost the industry about R597 million a day in sales, lost wages, and taxes.
Source: Bloomberg News. For more information, click here.