NUM says mines can raise pay 80% | Fin24
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NUM says mines can raise pay 80%

Jun 22 2015 12:34
Paul Burkhardt

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Johannesburg - The biggest union in the gold industry said producers in South Africa are able to afford an increase of more than 80% in the basic monthly pay of entry-level underground miners.

The National Union of Mineworkers has demanded this category of employees receives a minimum of R10 500 a month, NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi told reporters at a rally in Westonaria, outside of Johannesburg. The NUM represents about 54% of the 94 000 miners at the country’s three-biggest producers of the precious metal.

“That is the opening and the closing demand because these mines can afford better than that,” he said.

Wage talks with producers including AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG], the world’s third-biggest miner of the metal, begin on Monday. They start as gold companies in South Africa, the sixth-largest source of gold, contend with a 23% drop in bullion since the start of 2013 and an increase in costs such as electricity.

The companies now pay R5 790 monthly to entry-level workers, according to the Chamber of Mines, the industry lobby group. The union wants at least R9 500 monthly for surface workers, and 15% more for all other categories, Sipunzi said.

Industry sustainability

“We want to start a conversation with the leaders of organised labour and our employees that will lead to the sustainability of the gold industry for decades to come,” Harmony Gold Mining [JSE:HAR] Chief Executive Officer Graham Briggs, speaking on behalf of the chamber, said in a statement.

A proposal by the chamber to link compensation to gold prices, which the industry calls an economic and social sustainability compact, is a “distraction” from wages, Sipunzi said in an interview. If the companies were serious about this goal, they would have brought it up “a long time ago, not on the verge of negotiations”, he said.

Sipunzi beat incumbent Frans Baleni to be elected as general secretary at the NUM Congress earlier this month. The union has lost members to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. The Amcu rose to become the majority representative at platinum companies in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer, and held the country’s longest mining strike in that industry last year.

“Losing members means losing money,” Sipunzi told members wearing red NUM T-shirts at a rally in a sports stadium in Westonaria. “A union is strong when it has its own money.”

The Amcu has grown its membership at gold companies and demands basic pay be raised to R12 500 a month, the same amount it requested from platinum producers.

The cost of Amcu’s five-month strike outstripped the benefits to workers, he said.

“A person who had a bond on a house had that house repossessed, those who had a car had that repossessed too, the bank took back its money,” he said “We are still waiting for that 12 500.”

- With assistance from Lutho Mtongana in Johannesburg.

amcu  |  num  |  chamber of mines  |  wage talks  |  gold mining


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