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Mine gradings to be reviewed

Oct 04 2012 19:10 Sapa

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Johannesburg - Labour unions and the gold sector have agreed to review the entry level grading of workers, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.

"In terms of the existing wage agreement, we have a commitment to review the appropriate entry level wages and job categories potential," he told reporters in Johannesburg.

"Essentially, this means a job re-group exercise."

Vavi said discussions would start on October 9 and a deadline had been set for the end of the month.

Vavi, Congress of SA Trade Unions president Sidumo Dlamini and National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana met with CEOs from the gold sector on Thursday.

Reading a joint statement, Vavi said the parties wanted to protect the legitimacy of collective bargaining and industrial relations in the country.

Discussions started on Wednesday between the Chamber of Mines and the unions, and it was agreed that the existing wage agreements would be respected.

"This wage agreement signed on 23 August 2011 gives us an opportunity to respond to the demands workers have been making recently," said Vavi.

"In doing so we will be guided by the difficult competitive position of the gold mining industry, including the need to ensure sustainability and jobs retention."

The meeting between gold sector heads and unions comes at a time when workers at some of the country's gold mines have embarked on wildcat strikes calling for better wages.

AngloGold Ashanti CEO Mark Cutifani said it was important that the gold sector understand and deal with the issues, and respect the bargaining processes.

"Remember, we have an industry that is under extreme competitive pressure.

"There are businesses that have challenges in terms of jobs, but certainly considering what we have been through... we as the gold management team will do everything to protect employment," he said.

However, there were still many challenges.

Gold Fields' CEO Nick Holland said the priority was to get people back to work.

He said the concern was also for the safety of employees.

Mine operations at Gold Fields KDC West have been shut down since most of the mine's 13,000 workers embarked on a strike three weeks ago.

Vavi said that, during the meeting, Cosatu had called for a commission of inquiry into working and living conditions in the mining industry.

"We will co-operate to propose its terms of reference. It is important that this process be underpinned by independent verification to give necessary credibility
to its work and findings.

The parties also agreed to investigate different working arrangements that would improve productivity and the competitive position in the industry, and profit-sharing agreements for employees, said Vavi.

The Chamber of Mines believed the framework set out "forms a basis for a favourable consideration for workers to return to work".

Vavi said the NUM would consult its members about this.

On Friday, the union leaders would meet platinum sector heads at the Chamber of Mines.

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cosatu  |  zwelinzima vavi  |  wage agreement
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