Workers sang and danced in and out of the stuttering gold mining pay talks on Wednesday as they look likely to stretch into September – even though an offer is expected next week.
The tension between the rival National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and AMCU was clear. The two groups – one green, one red – stood far apart as they waited for talks to resume. There were few hellos, if any.
As AMCU negotiators clapped and sang their way into the resumption of the talks in the afternoon with the words: “Who told you AMCU killed people?” A clear reference to NUM accusations that AMCU has killed its members during disputes.
The gold employers will make a pay offer to unions, representing 93,000, on Monday after a day with a touch of farce at negotiations in Boksburg, 30 km east of Johannesburg.
Gold employers: AngloGold Ashanti; Harmony; Sibanye; Evander Gold and Village Main Reef, hope to avoid an expensive strike and plan their cost structures by hammering out a three year pay deal from July 1. The majority union, NUM, wants an 80% increase and its rival AMCU wants 100% with the mines pleading poverty.
The employers were pinning their hopes on a so called social compact – a package of improved welfare and job conditions – but unions scored a morale boosting victory by arguing successfully, late Wednesday, that they would not discuss the compact until an offer was made.
Tension between the NUM and AMCU was clear at the talks but all union members agreed it was an offer or nothing.
“We can’t make head nor tail of this package until we know what money comes with it,” Jeff Maphalele, the General Secretary of AMCU said outside the talks.
Earlier the talks had descended into a farce as unions pointed out a mistake in the first pages of a briefing document as the Chamber of Mines laid out its financial figures of all of the mines, involved in the talks, to prove the fact that they can’t afford a large pay rise.
The opening line said unions settled for a 10% pay rise in 2013; this was not true, as they settled for a deal between 8% and 7.5%. The unions complained and the talks were held up for two hours.
“If there are mistakes like this in the Chamber of Mines documents how can we trust the information being presented to us,” David Sipunzi, the General Secretary of the NUM said.
“We regret the mistake. The Chamber of Mines has apologised to the unions and what we said to them was we are all human beings,” Elize Strydom, the chief negotiator for the gold employers, said after the talks.