AFRICANGLOBE – South Africa’s gold mining and construction sectors are bracing for a crippling strike following the collapse of wage negotiations.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Thursday warned that its members “have already shown a great interest in the matter by voting in favour of a strike in many gold mines”.
The union said it had notified employers in the construction industry of its intention to begin industrial action on Monday.
“The arrogance of, the mining and construction companies have pushed us too far,” said Frans Baleni, the NUM general secretary.
The NUM represents about 64 percent of about 140 000 miners in the South African gold industry, where major operators include AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold.
Baleni added that “at the same time, gold workers would be consulted and be given feedback on the outcome of negotiations at the Chamber of Mines where the Gold companies made a meager offer of 6 percent”.
“The gloves are officially off, the battle lines are drawn and the fight will be taken back to the mining and construction oligarchy,” he said.
According to local reports, the gold companies, which have slightly raised their starting offers, said the “unions have failed to compromise”.
“If you look at past years there has been a narrowing of the gap by this stage in the negotiations and we have not seen that yet,” said Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the gold producers which include AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold.
The strife has also battered the South African rand, which dropped to a new four-year low against the dollar early on Thursday.
Baleni said the union would this weekend march to power utility Eskom, the Chamber of Mines and the construction sector representative to present their demands.
Meanwhile, about 31,000 union members aligned to the metalworkers union, Numsa have been on strike since Monday after pay talks reached deadlocked last month.
The workers are demanding a 14 percent across-the-board wage increase.
They also wanted a R750 monthly housing subsidy and R125 weekly transport allowance.
This strike entered its fourth day on Thursday and has affected global firms operating in South Africa, including Toyota, Ford and General Motors.
Economists estimate that the country’s faltering economy is already losing an estimated R618 million a day to the in the car manufacturing sector that accounts for 6 percent of gross domestic product.
By: Crystal van Vyk