Strike looms at De Beers

2011-07-20 13:48

Workers at diamond miner De Beers are set to go on strike after wage talks broke down today, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has said.

“A dispute has been declared and we will issue notice of our intention of going on strike,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said.

De Beers head of industrial relations Wayne Smerdon said they expected to receive the notice of intention to strike later in the day.

Labour law dictates that 48 hours notice be given before a strike starts.

Smerdon said the diamond producer had initially offered a 5% increase. NUM wanted 15%.

In today’s negotiations, De Beers increased its offer to 9.5%, and 10% for the lowest-paid workers.

Smerdon said another point of conflict was the union’s demand for an agency shop agreement between De Beers and the union.

Under such an agreement, a fee is deducted from non-union members’ salaries so that benefits that accrue to them from union negotiations are not free.

Smerdon said such an agreement would compromise workers’ right to freedom of association.

He said five mines would be affected in the case of a strike, but contingency plans were in place.

“It is too early to say what the extent of the strike could be.”

De Beers is the world’s largest diamond producer, with operations in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Canada.

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