Gold producers urge unions to consider 'credible' new wage offers

Gold producers said on Thursday that they had tabled a new set of three-year wage offers for unions to "carefully consider" under the current, difficult business climate faced by the sector.

The companies, AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG], Harmony [JSE:HAR], Sibanye-Stillwater [JSE:SGL] and Village Main Reef have put forward offers ranging from 6% to 7.2% in annual wage increases for underground mineworkers, and hikes of between 3.5% – 4.5% for artisans and officials.

For Harmony, which employs 32 520 workers – the largest number among the companies involved in the wage bargaining process – the 7.2% increase for the first year would result in a R550 wage per month hike for the first year, followed by a R575 monthly increase for the second and third year.

"Despite the current precarious position of the industry as a result of a stagnant gold price, rising costs and falling profitability, the offers made today are credible, and – at the entry level – well above the current CPI rate of 4.6%," said Motsamai Motlhamme, chief negotiator for the gold producers.

"We urge the unions and employees to carefully consider the offers before we meet again."

The workers are represented by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA (formerly the United Association of South Africa).

NUM has rejected the offer as "disingenuous", accusing the firms of being arrogant and negotiating in bad faith.

"This is indeed a war being declared by the gold producers. We will take their offers to our members with immediate effect and they are the ones who will give us a way forward," said NUM General Secretary and Chief Negotiator David Sipunzi.

The NUM is demanding R9 450 per month for surface workers, R10 450 for underground workers and a 14.5% wage hike for miners, artisans and officials.

Sibanye, which is the second biggest employer, proposed a 6% hike for the first and second year, which equates to a monthly increase of R475. The amount would increase basic pay by R490 a month for the third and final year.

The employers said they had made concessions on non-wage demands such as living out allowances, meal interval allowances, upgrading category 4 supervisors to category 5, and severance pay.

The negotiations, facilitated by the Minerals Council of South Africa, started on July 11.

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