MAC: Mines and Communities

South African mineworkers wage war on economic injustices

Published by MAC on 2011-08-08
Source: Statement, Reuters (2011-08-02)

Although several, pay-related,  gold mine strikes have just ended in South Africa, this doesn't by any means mark an end to  struggles for elementary economic justice on the part of large numbers of workers.

In a statement of 28 July 2011, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) stated:

"[T]his industrial action by mineworkers should not be de-linked from the broader class struggles of radically changing the ownership and control patterns of the strategic sectors of our economy such as steel, banking and mining...

"The mineworkers should also use this industrial action to call for progressive taxation, so that the rich pay more in the form of taxes and the disclosure of company profits as a platform from which to advance the quest for a living wage".

NUMSA backs Mineworkers Strike for a Living Wage

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)

28 July 2011

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) the dependable ally of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) pledges its unwavering support and solidarity on the ongoing industrial action for a living wage by mineworkers.

This industrial action by mineworkers should serve as a pilgrimage of workers resolve to smash the neo-liberal accumulation trajectory which has enriched few white males and plunged the majority black African working class into inferior conditions, squalor, poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment as can be seen in our rural areas, townships, hostels and squatter camps.

The wage gap that currently exists between an executive and the lowest paid worker requires an ordinary worker to work more than 333 years to close. This is an affront attack on our 17 years of democracy and freedom.

Therefore, this industrial action by mineworkers should not be de-linked from the broader class struggles of radically changing the ownership and control patterns of the strategic sectors of our economy such as steel, banking and mining to be in the hands of the State on behalf of the people in line with the Freedom Charter, in order for the State to accumulate much needed resources for the provision of free, quality public education, faster and improved service delivery and long over-due implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

This industrial action should not only be about wage increases, but should be used to demand the regulation of executive pay to be in line with a skilled worker, in order to close the apartheid wage gap. The mineworkers should also use this industrial action to call for progressive taxation, so that the rich pay more in the form of taxes and the disclosure of company profits as a platform from which to advance the quest for a living wage.

We urge mineworkers to remain firm and resolute in their demands for a living wage and improved conditions of employment.

Contact:

Castro Ngobese, National Spokesperson - 073 299 1595

NUMSA's main web site is at http://www.numsa.org.za/


Deal reached to end S.African gold mine strike

By Ed Stoddard and Olivia Kumwenda

Reuters

2 August 2011

JOHANNESBURG - A strike in South Africa's gold mining sector ended on Tuesday after a 2-year wage deal was clinched, unions and the Chamber of Mines said.

The strike at AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony began last Thursday and halted output worth up to $25 million a day at bullion's current record prices.

The unions said their members would return to work on Tuesday with the night shift but it will take a day or two before the mines are back to full production.

About 100,000 gold mine workers at the trio of companies and a smaller miner downed tools on Thursday, extending a wave of strikes across Africa's largest economy that threaten to curb growth or even push it into contraction.

Harmony said it estimated the strike had cost it about 500 kg or close to 18,000 ounces in lost production.

The companies' share prices extended gains on the news as gold scaled new highs over $1,635.00 an ounce on growing concerns about Europe's debt woes and anaemic U.S. growth data.

Unions had been seeking pay increases of 14 percent from the gold industry but the chamber of mines, which negotiated on behalf of the companies, said they had settled on for 7.5 to 10 percent in the two-year deal.

"We have also looked at housing allowances and living out allowances; we are very pleased with the outcome," Frans Baleni, the general secretary of the powerful National Union of Mineworkers, told Reuters.

South African mineworkers also get housing and other non-wage benefits in their packages. Baleni said the monthly housing allowance had been raised by 120 rand for the next two years to 1,640 rand ($243).

Solidarity, one of the three unions involved, said in a statement that the deal was not set in stone and would be revisited next June if inflation was to exceed the wage increases that had been agreed.

Economists say inflation is being fuelled partly by high wage settlements which have become a feature of South Africa's annual mid-year "strike season", and which are eroding its investment status. Its workforce is already more expensive and less efficient than those in its emerging market peers.

There is little political will to rein in the unions as the ruling African National Congress is in an alliance with organised labour, which delivers it millions of votes.

The unions argue that headline inflation does not show the full effect of rising fuel and food prices on their members' incomes. They also point to sky-high commodity prices and executive pay to justify their contract demands.

Share Rebound

After investors pounded them last week the share prices of South Africa's gold producers, which were already up due to bullion's latest record run, increased their gains in late afternoon trade.

Harmony led the way as its shares added 4.60 percent while Gold Fields closed over two percent higher and AngloGold rose 1.60 percent.

Harmony had the most at stake in the strike as over 90 percent of its output comes from South Africa while in AngloGold's case the country only accounts for about 40 percent.

The gold strike was relatively short-lived. A week-long walkout at South Africa's main coal mines that had threatened exports and supplies to domestic power stations ended on Monday. A strike in the fuel sector lasted almost three weeks.

A strike in the diamond sector continues while talks are taking place to avert stoppages at state-run power utility Eskom and the vital platinum sector. NUM said late on Tuesday it had failed to reach a wage agreement with Eskom and talks would continue on Wednesday and Thursday.

The union also said it had rejected the latest offer from Impala Platinum , the world's second largest producer of the precious metal, and would meet with it again on Wednesday in an attempt to resolve the impasse.

Strained labour relations in South Africa have lengthened the list of investors' concerns that include nationalisation talk in ruling party circles and high rates of violent crime linked to glaring income disparities and high unemployment. ($1 = 6.724 South African Rand) (Addtional reporting by Agnieszka Flak, Editing by Marius Bosch and David Stamp)

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