Johannesburg - The SA Chamber of Mines should return to the negotiating table after declaring an impasse on Monday, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said.
The union was "disappointed" the chamber did not make a new offer after striking gold miners rejected their latest tabled proposal, spokesperson Ngwako Matsha said in a statement.
"Instead, the Chamber of Mines argued for an opportunity to weigh its own options of restructuring and [for] taking the legal route."
A meeting on Monday between the chamber, the NUM, Solidarity and Uasa could not find a solution to the on-going unprotected strike by an estimated 50 000 workers.
During the meeting, unions gave the chamber feedback on the proposals tabled by employers last week. The unions indicated there had been mixed reactions by their members to the chamber's proposals, and that they were unable to confirm their members would return to work.
The chamber said it was not in a position to make any further proposals.
"[The chamber] and the individual companies will now explore other avenues to try to bring normality to the gold mining industry," it said.
Several mining companies had responded to the waves of unprotected strikes hitting the sector by firing workers.
Matsha said it would be a mistake for the chamber to take this course of action.
"Dismissals would not be a solution to the current challenges facing the industry in that it would only serve to fuel emotions that are already high," he said.
At least one mining company has said restructuring might be in the cards, with less-profitable shafts being closed as wage costs rose.
Matsha said this would cause problems as it would likely result in the loss of jobs and higher unemployment.
The chamber, acting on behalf of AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG], Gold Fields [JSE:GFI], and Harmony Gold Mining Company [JSE:HAR], had proposed doing away with the lowest wage category to increase the industry's entry-level wage. A new category would be created for locomotive, loader, winch, and water jet operators, to improve their salaries.
Other employees would have their pay adjusted to preserve the integrity of the present job grading framework. An allowance for rock drill operators was also proposed.
Uasa spokesperson Franz Stehring said his union would be considering options such as special legal action and restructuring.
"Our members are not participating in the strike, but are becoming victims of the violence and intimidation," he said.
Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said: "It is high time that government steps into the fold and ends this ongoing strike. The end result is that marginal mining companies will close down, and big mining companies start retrenching."