South Africa: Mine workers union rejects pay offer

The National Union of Mine-workers has rejected a 6% offer and is instead demanding that miners receive a 15% increase.

Submitted by jef costello on June 5, 2007

The NUM is acting after a series of high-profile wildcat actions in the Platinum mining industry in South Africa. Prices are high and a small decline in production over the last year has helped create conditions where workers can apply a lot of pressure on management. The South African government is complaining of a skills shortage and warning of the inflationary pressures caused by wage rises.

South Africa produces four fifths of the world's platinum and prices rose by $21.80 to $1,285.80 an ounce in a single day last week amid fears of a strike.

The NUM has also promised to support the current public sector workers strike which began last Friday after the government rejected calls for a 12% pay increase and increased its offer from 6% to 6.5%. Some 700000 public sector workers have joined the strike, it is unclear at this stage what form the support of the NUM will take. It may be difficult for its 280000 members to receive legal permission for a sympathy strike, although that has not stopped miners recently.

Workers employed by Murray & Roberts Cementation (MRC) at Aquarius Platinum's Kroondal and Marikana mines launched wildcat strikes on May 9th after 108 Load Haul Dumper workers were fired over bonus demands. Some 4000 workers took part in the action, defying a court order, reducing the production at Kroondal and Marikana to 15% and 60% of capacity respectively.

A deal was brokered with MRC by the National Union of Mineworkers, although as yet no details have been released of the agreement. MRC, as a contractor, was under strong pressure from Aquarius to resolve the dispute.

A nine-day Wildcat strike at the Northam platinum mine near Thabazimbi cost management an estimated 60M Rand ($8.5 million). The strike, which began April 29th, was launched after management failed to implement promises made to workers. The 5500 miners also demanded that two of the industrial relations managers employed at the site be removed.

In related news three miners were killed in a mudslide at the Rustenburg mine yesterday. The accident was apparently caused by water pouring down the shaft, the NUM has called the accident 'preventable' and demanded a full inquiry.