South Africa, which is the world’s largest producer of platinum and the sixth-largest producer of gold, is bracing for strikes as labor unions declare an impasse with the platinum and gold mining industry, the construction industry, and the national electrical utility.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration has certified the union’s claims that an impasse has been reached in the six-week series of negotiations.
Spokesman for South Africa’s largest mining union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) today declared “The gloves are officially off, the battle lines are drawn and the fight will be taken back to the mining, construction and Eskom oligarchy.”
Eskom is the public electric utility, which provides more than 95 percent of the nation’s power. Eskom is struggling to meet electricity demand in Africa’s biggest economy, with major blackouts occurring this year. Power outages in recent years have cost the mining industry millions of dollars in lost production.
NUM is demanding a 60% pay raise for entry-level mineworkers, while its main rival the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Unions (Amcu) is demanding pay raises of up to 150%. The precious metals mining industry, plagued by declining productivity and skyrocketing electricity and labor costs, offered a 6% pay raise, raises in housing allowances, and bonuses for hitting productivity and expense reduction targets.
The unions have flatly rejected any inclusion of productivity bonuses in wage negotiations.
NUM announced that general strikes would begin in the construction industry on Monday, and a vote of whether to strike or not will be put before gold mineworkers tomorrow.