Johannesburg - Workers in the gold sector are preparing to strike after the Chamber of Mines (COM) refused to budge on salary negotiations, the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) said on Tuesday.
"There has not been progress and clearly progress would not be coming and we have no option to opt for a push," general secretary Frans Baleni said.
"There is no question about not having a strike. The strike is here, feel it."
Num emerged from the gold talks "bruised" by the chamber's inconsistencies and reluctance to budge, he said.
The Num, the United Association of SA (Uasa) and Solidarity were representing unionised employees - working for chamber member companies such as AngloGold Ashanti [ JSE:ANG], Harmony Gold Mining Company [JSE:HAR]
and Gold Fields [JSE:GFI]
- during the negotiations.
The Num and Uasa hoped to raise the chamber's offer from 4.2% to 14%. Solidarity's members had given their negotiators permission to ask for 12%.
Although inflation was at 4.6%, workers faced hefty electricity and rates increases, food price hikes and the imminent introduction of road tolls.
The chamber recently said production in the gold mining industry had consistently declined and that it faced pressure from high electricity, water and fuel costs.
COM negotiator Elize Strydom said the wage offer was increased from 4% to 5% for the lowest paid employees and 4.5% for the rest.
This was because the gold mining companies were not clear on the unions' position with regards to other costly items still outstanding.
"Any movement that we make will depend on the cost implications of the positions adopted by unions on the outstanding issues," she said.
The Num said the COM was dragging its feet.
Negotiations were expected to continue on Wednesday.
The coal sector is expected to start salary increase negotiations on Thursday.
Coal companies have offered a 4.5% wage increase for the lowest category of employee, and 4.2% for all other employees.
The engineering sector of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA began protests on Monday in pursuit of a 13% salary increase.
It has been offered 7%.