South African union threatens strike at coal and diamond mines

Image courtesy of Sibanye Gold Ltd

South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) threatened on Friday to call a strike at mining companies De Beers, Exxaro and Petra Diamonds after failing to reach wage agreements.

NUM, one of the biggest mining unions in South Africa, said it had secured a certificate to stage a strike after talks on a wage settlement in mediation with the companies at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) came to no agreement.

The three companies all said in separate statements that they would continue to engage with the union to find a solution

It said it was finalising picketing rules with the CCMA but did not say when the strike would go ahead.

“It is going to be a big, big fight,” said William Mabapa, NUM Chief Negotiator at the three companies, said in a statement.

“Food prices, fuel prices and general inflation had sky-rocketed. There is just no room for peanuts increases and for that, we are prepared for war.”

The three companies all said in separate statements that they would continue to engage with the union to find a solution.

“We value our employees and our relationship with the NUM and we will therefore continue with our engagements in an effort to reach a sustainable agreement in the interest of all parties, considering the current external environment,” De Beers, a unit of Anglo American, said in its statement.

Exxaro is the biggest coal supplier to South Africa’s state-owned power utility Eskom.

NUM has also reached a deadlock in its wage negotiations with unlisted Seriti Coal Mine and has declared a dispute with the CCMA for mediation, a move that is one step short of a strike.

South Africa’s labour laws allow for wage disputes to be referred to an outside mediator. If that fails, employees can go on strike.

NUM said it is demanding an increase of 8.5% across the board while the company is offering workers a 4% rise.

Seriti said talks with the union were continuing.

(By Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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