Exclusive: South Africa's NUM seeks 15-60 percent wage rises from gold, coal producers

Sun May 19, 2013 2:18pm EDT
 
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By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers said it would seek pay rises of up to 60 percent from gold and coal producers, raising the prospect of fresh strikes as firms battle higher costs and falling prices in an already heated labor climate.

Africa's biggest economy is hoping to avoid the 2012 wildcat strike action at platinum and gold mines that cost billions in lost revenue and production and killed over 50 people.

Mineworkers are mobilizing to assert themselves, with the NUM fighting a challenge to its once near monopoly in the shafts from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has poached tens of thousands of platinum miners from it in a violent struggle for members.

NUM said it was seeking an entry-level minimum monthly wage of 7,000 rand ($750) for gold and coal surface workers and 8,000 rand for those underground in a submission to the country's Chamber of Mines, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

Elize Strydom, the industrial relations adviser at the Chamber of Mines, said the minimum wage for surface workers is currently 4,700 rand and for underground miners it is 5,000 rand, so the demands for the latter are a 60 percent increase.

NUM also said it wanted 15 percent increases for "all other wage categories," or more experienced and skilled workers.

The chamber of mines said in a statement it had received the "proposals" from NUM and urged all parties to compromise in the talks which will begin around the middle of June.

"We appeal to all parties to explore every option in trying to reach settlement without resorting to damaging industrial action, and to reach agreements that will strike a balance between what is affordable to the companies and meets the expectations of the employees," the chamber said in a statement.   Continued...