South African gold sector wage negotiations deadlock – union

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 21 (Reuters) – South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Tuesday that wage negotiations in the gold sector were at a deadlock and the union had declared a dispute, a move that is one step short of a strike.

However, the Minerals Council, formerly known as the Chamber of Mines, which is representing gold producers in the wage talks, said the talks were still ongoing.

Gold producers have argued that above-inflation wage hikes have been adding to the cost burden in the bullion industry, which has been hit by depressed prices and labour unrest.

The dispute meant that if conciliation talks between the parties mediated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration failed to break the impasse, a protected strike could potentially go ahead.

"We have reached a deadlock. It is the end of the road. We have declared a dispute," NUM said in a statement.

NUM is one of four unions involved in negotiations, which include the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), Solidarity and UASA.

"We are still engaging with the unions," said spokeswoman Memory Johnstone at the Minerals Council said.

The four companies involved, Sibanye-Stillwater, Harmony Gold, AngloGold Ashanti and a smaller producer Village Main Reef each tabled different offer in August of up to 7.2 percent to underground employees and up to 4.5 percent for miners and artisans. Inflation stood at 4.6 in June.

($1 = 14.6363 rand)

(By Tanisha Heiberg and Patricia Aruo; Editing by James Macharia)