NUM declares dispute in gold sector wage talks

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The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has declared a wage dispute in the on-going South African gold sector wage negotiations.

“We’ve realised that talking amongst ourselves is not making any progress. We felt that bringing a third party through a dispute mechanism might assist the parties, either to come closer or to activate the next step of an impasse, which we’re trying to avoid as much as we can but that’s another option open for us,” Frans Baleni, NUM’s Secretary General told CNBC Africa on Wednesday.

The declaration comes just over one week after the trade union rejected the Chamber of Mines’ proposed four per cent basic wage hike, branding it an “insult.”

NUM’s demanding gold and platinum producers to raise remunerations between 15 to 60 per cent. Its rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) wants a minimum of 12,500 rand across all mining companies.

“Having observed that there’s little progress and the gap between our demands and what the Chamber is offering is very big and is far below the average CPI,” said Baleni.

The Chamber’s chief negotiator Elize Strydom last week said the offer would guarantee underground entry level mineworkers taking home 8,900 rand per month, from a meagre 5,000 rand. She noted that the proposed increment would be inclusive of other benefits including their retirement contribution.

Last week NUM’s bid to stave of derecognition at Lonmin was struck off the roll with costs. The labour union alleges that Amcu played foul in the transfer of its members.

Amcu and NUM are bitter rivals fighting over dominance and recognition in the gold and platinum mines, which also contributed to last year’s Marikana massacre.

“Indeed it is my experience especially with a new entrant which can play the ball and also creating certain expectations among the workers that this party can bring more than the other one, so it does complicate things,” noted Baleni.

“It also suspends the level’s objectivity such as the extent of the economy and of the mining industry especially gold. So those things become very difficult to convey to members when there are those sorts of people.”