AFRICANGLOBE – South African miners and employers are bracing themselves for the mother of strike seasons this year.
As the end of May beckons, the country is braced for a series of employment negotiations, as sectoral wage contracts come under the spotlight.
First to throw the gauntlet is the country’s largest and richest trade union, the powerful, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which submitted its wage demands to the Chamber of Mines for the 2013 wage negotiation season.
The union is demanding up to 60 percent increase for some of its lowest paid workers.
NUM is demanding that surface workers receive a minimum amount of R7,000 ($738) and underground and opencast workers minimum should receive a minimum R8,000 ($843) per month.
For all other categories, the NUM has put a demand of 15 percent rise.
South African mines have already expressed concern about NUM’s demands, saying other sectors were bound to demand similar wage increases.
The mining industry is still reeling from months of violent strikes where workers demanded salary hikes of between R12 500 ($1,368) and R16 000 ($1,687).
Last year saw the deaths of 34 miners, after they were shot and massacred in Marikana, in the country’s Northwest Province during a labour dispute.
The deaths of 34 striking platinum miners by police in August last year has left simmering anger within the sector, against a backdrop of employer-labour relations that are the worst in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.
“These demands are informed by many studies, which have revealed that cash wages received over time have indeed been growing but, the disposable wage has been under severe strain due to the effects of inflation,” NUM’s Frans Baleni said.
Baleni said these demands are for gold and coal employers affiliated to the Chamber of Mines.
The Union has come under pressure from the newly formed Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at several mines and some analysts say that the union is desperate to attract workers.
NUM said they would be meeting with branches this week to discuss the wage demands and also with the Chamber of Mines next week.
Analysts point out that the country’s gold, platinum and coal producers have been agreeing to above-inflation wage increases for years, but steeply rising power and other costs mean another round of big wage hikes may be unsustainable.