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Mine owners agree to discuss wage hikes

Oct 03 2012 20:00

Johannesburg - Facing a wave of industrial disputes, South Africa's Chamber of Mines on Wednesday said it was willing to review current wage agreements for gold and coal miners.

Referring to sometimes violent demands for higher salaries, Chamber negotiator Elize Strydom told AFP "we will meet [next] Tuesday and we will hopefully be coming with some proposals to address those issues."

The comments came after a day of talks with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which has demanded centralised wage deals for gold and coal miners, agreed last year, be renegotiated or scrapped a year before they are due to expire.

The union on Wednesday claimed victory, telling members that the Chamber of Mines would come to next Tuesday's meeting with "an actual wage offer... tabled in rand and cents."

The deal will include a pay increase for entry level workers, and an "adjustment" for rock drill and other operators, NUM said.

Strydom confirmed the contracts of those workers would be examined and added "we are very aware of the urgency of the matter. We have 50,000 (gold) workers on unprotected strike."

"This is not a good situation. We try to resolve all these issues and address them as a matter of urgency"

For almost 100 years labour relations at South Africa's economically vital mines have been managed through some form of centralised wage agreements.

But a recent round of labour disputes have called the highly structured system into question.

It remains to be seen if the prospect of a new wage deal will dampen tensions.

On Wednesday police tried to contain tensions at the Gold Fields mine in
Carletonville west of Johannesburg where 15,000 miners refused to return to work. Around 5,400 workers at the nearby Harmony Gold mine also downed tools.

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