Unions declare dispute in SA gold wage talks
South Africa's gold producers today raised their wage offer by 1%, to 5% but, dissatisfied, the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity have declared a dispute and have requested mediation.
Posted: Wednesday , 24 Jul 2013
In a bid to help reach an agreement between employers and unions, the National Union of Mineworkers and Solidarity have declared a wage dispute on behalf of gold sector employees.
In a statement released by Solidarity, General Secretary Gideon du Plessis is quoted as saying, that the union warned last week that this year's negotiations would be exceptionally challenging.
"The fact that even after numerous meetings, no agreement on a document on the “house rules” could be reached, further confirms this assumption," He said, adding, "The Chamber of Mines announced today that it would improve its initial wage offer of only 4% for employees in the gold industry with a mere one percentage point and therefore we believe that facilitating should take place sooner rather than later to give negotiations a boost."
Speaking to Mineweb, Du Plessis said that while it was good that the employers managed to add another 1% to their offer, " we have noticed that on the other substantive issues there is at this stage no mandate for their negotiators to make any kind of concession."
Asked what these issues were, Du Plessis told Mineweb it covered a number of issues, including:
the housing and living out allowance that is currently not very favourable, issues relating to medical aid contributions and family responsibility leave.
According to Du Plessis the unions have given themselves a month to resolve the matter but hoped that mediation by the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration could help to fast track the process.
We are looking at about the third week of August for matters either to be resolved or to be in final deadlock.
National Union of Mineworkers spokesman, Lesiba Seshoka, was less positive of resolution, telling Mineweb that "there is almost no hope at this point in tim", because the Chamber has just moved by 1%.
"At this rate we don't believe we will have an amicable consensus, this is why we declared the dispute with the CCMA, so that we can get a facilitator to help us,"he said, but added, "Of course that is just one step away from strike action, if we do not agree with the facilitator."
Asked what needed to happen to avoid a final deadlock, Seshoka said, "The Chamber must move, big time, they can't move by 1% at a time, it is problematic in many ways. We asking for the basic wage move from R4500 to R7000, for surface workers so to close that gap the Chamber must move with R1000 at a go then we will close it, then we will only have two rounds of negotiations.
In a statement out earlier in the day, the Chamber of Mines that represents AngloGold Ashanti, Evander Gold Mine, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Rand Uranium, Sibanye Gold and Village Main Reef said it had raised its offer from 4% to 5% after carefully evaluating union demands.
"The effect of this offer would be to raise the guaranteed pay of entry-level underground employees for major gold-producing companies to at least R9000 per month," the Chamber said, adding: "These figures include basic wage, living-out allowance, medical benefit and retirement contribution and exclude statutory benefits, other allowances, profit share, overtime and bonuses.
Asked if there had been any consultation with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, Du PLessis said they had been told but said they didn't currently have a mandate from their members to declare a dispute.
According to the Chamber, AMCU has requested additional information which the producers will respond to.
The process will now be referred to the CCMA who will appoint a mediator.