South African gold producers gear up for strikes from Sunday

Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:47am EDT
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By Ed Stoddard and Sherilee Lakmidas

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African gold producers are preparing for bruising strikes that could start as early as Sunday, with some companies planning for stoppages of up to three months in a high-stakes fight between capital and labor in Africa's biggest economy.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will give gold producers on Friday 48-hours' notice of its members' intention to strike over deadlocked wage talks, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

"The decision to issue a strike notice on Friday has now been taken," the source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. Workers could then begin stoppages from the Sunday night or Monday morning shifts in the country's gold mines.

A complete shutdown of the gold sector could cost South Africa more than $35 million a day in lost output, according to calculations based on the spot price.

This will pile pressure on a struggling economy already weighed down by a slew of ongoing strikes in auto manufacturing, construction and aviation services, and facing threatened stoppages by textile workers and petrol station employees.

On Saturday, NUM gave bullion producers, including AngloGold Ashanti ANGJ.J, Gold Fields GFIJ.J, Sibanye Gold SGLJ.J and Harmony Gold HARJ.J, a seven-day ultimatum to meet its demand for pay rises of up to 60 percent or face strike action.

The country's Chamber of Mines, which negotiates on behalf of gold producers, said on Tuesday it had made a final offer to unions to increase basic wages by between 6 and 6.5 percent.

NUM, which represents 64 percent of the country's gold miners, dismissed this offer. Another more militant mining union is seeking pay hikes as high as 150 percent.   Continued...