South African miners refuse gold firms’ final wage offer

South Africa’s unions have rejected the final pay offer made yesterday by the Chamber of Mines on behalf of the country’s gold mining sector, raising the prospect of widened strikes in Africa’s largest, but struggling economy.

The body, which represents the country’s main gold producers, such as AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE: AU) (ASX: AGG), and Gold Fields (NYSE: GFI), responded to workers demands late Tuesday with a 6.5% pay raise offer.

But the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) discarded the proposal, calling it “a joke,” reports local news agency Sapa.

“They are being ridiculous,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka was quoted as saying. “Six percent for someone who is earning R5000 [US$ 480] a month is R300 [$29]. It’s nonsense.”

He did not comment on what would happen next, since union members earlier threatened strikes if their 60% increase demands were not met.

The chamber warned that the sector “remains in a perilous financial position, and can ill-afford further increases or indeed industrial action.”

“We need a sustainable agreement that will preserve our mines, and consequently jobs,” said the Chamber’s chief negotiator Elize Strydom in a statement.

The government has called on the workers to ensure all strikes are peaceful, as labour disputes last year claimed up to 50 lives at South Africa’s platinum mines.

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