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Chamber of Mines renews efforts to stabilise gold sector

19 Oct 2012
JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Chamber of Mines (CoM) was cautiously optimistic of finding a resolution to end the wildcat strikes that recently hit South Africa’s gold sector after delivering a “tweaked” proposal to unions this week.

The “slightly altered” proposal, for which the chamber expected union member feedback on Monday, was based on the premise that striking employees return to work by October 22 and gold operations normalised.

“The unions have indicated that they will take the proposals made by the companies back to their members and encourage acceptance with a view to ending the strikes,” CoM employment relations senior executive Dr Elize Strydom said on Friday.

CoM’s initial proposals tabled last week to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA included doing away with the category 3 level so that entry level in the gold mining industry became category 4 with a consequential adjustment to the entry-level rate; an allowance for rock-drill operators; and the implementation of a new category and improved wages for locomotive, loader, winch and water jet operators.

Gold Fields senior VP and head of investor relations Willie Jacobsz told Mining Weekly Online that minor changes were made to the offer to make it more beneficial and attractive for the workers. This included, for instance, the shifting of the rock-drill operators’ allowance into the existing wage package, as it would benefit the worker more as a pensionable salary.

The proposal was not renegotiated or repackaged, he stressed. The restructured proposal would also not impact on the strongly defended existing two-year wage agreement expiring in June 2013.

The CoM earlier this week stepped back from the talks after it hit an impasse on Monday, leaving South Africa’s three top gold producers to negotiate individually with the NUM, Solidarity and UASA.

Gold Fields, which issued a final get-to-work-or-be-dismissed ultimatum on Tuesday, reported that all workers had returned to its Beatrix operations and 90% at KDC West had clocked in by Thursday afternoon.

Many of the estimated 1 500 dismissed workers who failed to heed the return to work ultimatum had reported for duty on Friday. While the workers were now required to undertake the appeals process, Jacobsz said this was a positive development.

By Friday, only Gold Fields’ KDC East operations were still strike-hit.

Harmony investor relations officer Henrika Basterfield said no ultimatum had yet been issued to workers at its Kusasalethu mine, near Carletonville – the only Harmony operation to be impacted by industrial action.

Workers downed tools on October 3 and the stoppage was costing the gold company between 15 kg and 20 kg a day in gold production.

AngloGold Ashanti, which had an estimated 35 000 workers in South Africa on strike, had also not issued any ultimatums, pending the reaction to the restructured proposal, public relations manager Alan Fine said.

He noted that the proposal needed to become a formality and failing this, the company would consider its options, including the possibility of an ultimatum.

Fine pointed out that many of AngloGold Ashanti’s workers were attempting to report for duty, but that employees were reportedly intimidated when they neared the mine.

Strydom said that the CoM was encouraged that employees on a number of gold mines have started to return to work. “We are hoping that this trend will continue and that the industry will return to normality in the near future”.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said that, despite the positive development of gold employees returning to work, renewed strikes, such as at Petra Diamond’s Cullinan mine, seemed to indicate the industry was “moving against the wind”.

Seshoka said the NUM would over the weekend source feedback from and consult their members on the CoM proposal.
JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Chamber of Mines (CoM) was cautiously optimistic of finding a resolution to end the wildcat strikes that recently hit South Africa’s gold sector after delivering a “tweaked” proposal to unions this week.

The “slightly altered” proposal, for which the chamber expected union member feedback on Monday, was based on the premise that striking employees return to work by October 22 and gold operations normalised.

“The unions have indicated that they will take the proposals made by the companies back to their members and encourage acceptance with a view to ending the strikes,” CoM employment relations senior executive Dr Elize Strydom said on Friday.

CoM’s initial proposals tabled last week to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA included doing away with the category 3 level so that entry level in the gold mining industry became category 4 with a consequential adjustment to the entry-level rate; an allowance for rock-drill operators; and the implementation of a new category and improved wages for locomotive, loader, winch and water jet operators.

Gold Fields senior VP and head of investor relations Willie Jacobsz told Mining Weekly Online that minor changes were made to the offer to make it more beneficial and attractive for the workers. This included, for instance, the shifting of the rock-drill operators’ allowance into the existing wage package, as it would benefit the worker more as a pensionable salary.

The proposal was not renegotiated or repackaged, he stressed. The restructured proposal would also not impact on the strongly defended existing two-year wage agreement expiring in June 2013.

The CoM earlier this week stepped back from the talks after it hit an impasse on Monday, leaving South Africa’s three top gold producers to negotiate individually with the NUM, Solidarity and UASA.

Gold Fields, which issued a final get-to-work-or-be-dismissed ultimatum on Tuesday, reported that all workers had returned to its Beatrix operations and 90% at KDC West had clocked in by Thursday afternoon.

Many of the estimated 1 500 dismissed workers who failed to heed the return to work ultimatum had reported for duty on Friday. While the workers were now required to undertake the appeals process, Jacobsz said this was a positive development.

By Friday, only Gold Fields’ KDC East operations were still strike-hit.

Harmony investor relations officer Henrika Basterfield said no ultimatum had yet been issued to workers at its Kusasalethu mine, near Carletonville – the only Harmony operation to be impacted by industrial action.

Workers downed tools on October 3 and the stoppage was costing the gold company between 15 kg and 20 kg a day in gold production.

AngloGold Ashanti, which had an estimated 35 000 workers in South Africa on strike, had also not issued any ultimatums, pending the reaction to the restructured proposal, public relations manager Alan Fine said.

He noted that the proposal needed to become a formality and failing this, the company would consider its options, including the possibility of an ultimatum.

Fine pointed out that many of AngloGold Ashanti’s workers were attempting to report for duty, but that employees were reportedly intimidated when they neared the mine.

Strydom said that the CoM was encouraged that employees on a number of gold mines have started to return to work. “We are hoping that this trend will continue and that the industry will return to normality in the near future”.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said that, despite the positive development of gold employees returning to work, renewed strikes, such as at Petra Diamond’s Cullinan mine, seemed to indicate the industry was “moving against the wind”.

Seshoka said the NUM would over the weekend source feedback from and consult their members on the CoM proposal.