Mining Battle Lines Drawn Zz Gold Mines Set for Strike after Talks Fail

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Dineo Faku

Rumblings of lockouts by gold sector employers and resolutions to strike by trade unions culminated in a firm commitment to do battle by both parties as the deadline for a wage deal expired at noon yesterday.

"This is it. This is our final offer, we cannot afford an increase," Harmony Gold chief executive Graham Briggs told a press conference hosted by the Chamber of Mines yesterday.

The industry's final stand includes insisting on a collective bargaining forum and not negotiating or settling with unions at either company or mine level.

Briggs said reaching different settlements would probably fuel inter-union rivalry and incite violence.

Across the divide, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it rejected "with contempt" the final pay offer of a 6.5 percent wage increase linked to a profit share scheme as part of a two-year wage agreement.

NUM tabled demands for 60 percent wage increments at entry-level while the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) asked for a 120 percent increment. They have not budged, while employers started at 5.5 percent.

"Unions that are expecting these settlements will be disappointed," Briggs added, referring to the fact that there would not be different settlement for bitter rivals NUM and Amcu.

The chamber represents seven gold mining companies in the negotiations: Sibanye Gold, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti, Evander Gold, Village Main Reef and Rand Uranium.

"By tomorrow [today] we should know what the consensus is from our members," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said. "If they want to strike, we will send a notice of strike action to the Chamber of Mines, but we have to look at other avenues of engagement."

Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said the union would stick to its demand and consult members on whether to strike. "We cannot be told by the employers, we need to settle on the same settlement. The final offer is a joke. I don't know what they are trying to achieve by being stubborn. They can't blame workers for not accepting the offer, they need to blame themselves for being stubborn".

The parties have exhausted all avenues as the mediation process, led by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, failed in the third round of talks. …