21 January 2014

South Africa: Strike Could Cripple Gold Industry

Photo: Anglogold Ashanti/MediaClub SA
Drilling underground in a South African gold mine (file photo).

Joohannesburg — A strike by labour union Amcu could cripple an already fragile gold mining industry, trade union Solidarity said on Tuesday.

"We are concerned about the job security of Amcu's members as a strike....could be unprotected and could put the future of thousands of mine workers and their families at risk," general secretary Gideon du Plessis said in a statement.

"Fortunately there is still time for the parties to find common ground this week and to avoid a situation where there are no winners, only losers."

Du Plessis said he was concerned about the intention by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to strike as it could result in retrenchments.

On Monday, the Amcu announced it would embark on a strike in both the platinum and gold sectors after issuing employers with strike notices.

"We have been negotiating with the employers through the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) for some time," he said at the time.

"After we obtained the CCMA certificates for all the companies, we continued as Amcu in believing in the negotiation process to try and not come to a stage where there is strike action."

On Monday, the Chamber of Mines confirmed that Amcu was to embark on a strike in the gold sector.

However, the chamber said gold producers would go to court as it believed the strike was illegal, and would seek damages from the union.

The strikes would take place at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold's Kusaselethu and Masimong mines, and at all of AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations.

A two-tier wage agreement was concluded on September 10 last year with three of the four unions in the sector, being the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Uasa and Solidarity.

The NUM, Uasa and Solidarity represented 72 percent of workers in the gold sector, while Amcu represented 17 percent of workers at the time of the negotiations.

On Friday, the CCMA said it had issued Amcu with non-resolution certificates for the platinum sector, after negotiations with Lonmin Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum had deadlocked.

This was after the union referred separate disputes with the three companies to the commission in October and November last year. Amcu was the dominant union in the platinum sector.

Amcu was demanding an entry-level monthly salary of R12,500.

Du Plessis said the strike would not be in the interest of Amcu, its members, or the industry.

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