A crucial week lies ahead for the stuttering gold mine pay talks upon which the hopes of a large slice of the industry rest.
Later Monday AMCU will go into a meeting with the gold employers to discuss the opening offer that all four unions have rejected. On Tuesday it will be UASA and Solidarity’s turn and on July 28 the National Union of Mineworkers will go in to hear what the offer means for them.
The employers have offered between 7.8% and 12.96%, plus a package of welfare benefits and the promise of bonuses if profits stay above 6% after costs have been deducted. All four unions rejected the offer roundly. In particular, they feel the welfare package is a mere sop and are against the bonus, on the grounds that it is out of their control after a wage deal is signed.
The gold employers won't submit to union pressure to make separate pay offers, Elize Strydom, the chief negotiator for the Chamber of Mines said Monday (July 20).
"We are hoping to pick up signals this week about where there are areas where we can compromise," Strydom said.
Wages make up 55% of gold mining costs and the NUM wants a 80% increase in entry level pay and AMCU wants 100%.The union pay demands would increase the wage bill of South African gold mines by R16.5 billion Rand ($1.32 billion) threatening almost all of the industry's jobs, the CoM said in a statement on July 8.
The second largest union in the pay talks for a new five year deal, to be backdated to July 1, AMCU has made no secret of the fact that it wants a deal separate from the other three unions negotiating in the talks in Boksburg, 30 km east of Johannesburg. A higher settlement than the majority National Union of Mineworkers would help win over members for AMCU.
"We are not going to be pushed into this, there will be one offer to all the unions and that will be that," Strydom said.
"All we are saying is that we will not accept any deal from management until our own members say yes," Manzini Zungu, the spokesman for AMCU said.
"As far as we are concerned we are the majority union so we will be doing what we want," Zungu said. AMCU is busy with a stuttering verification process to prove it has more than the 28,000 workers acknowledged by the employers at the talks.