NUM plans to strike at De Beers, Exxaro and Petra Diamonds

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  • The NUM wants an 8% increase at De Beers, while the company is offering 1.5%.
  • Exxaro Coal is offering 5%, against the union's 7.5% demand.
  • The threat of the strike comes as mining companies are ramping up production following the lockdown.

Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) are set to down tools at De Beers, Exxaro and Petra Diamonds after they failed to reach a wage settlement at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the union announced on Friday.

The planned strike at the three companies had been give a go-ahead by the CCMA, with the union saying it was now finalising logistics. The strike action which will take place while the country is still under alert Level 1 of the Covid-19 lockdown.

"It is going to be a big, big fight," says William Mabapa, the NUM's chief negotiator at the three companies. The union hasn't as yet announced the date of the strike.

"Food prices, fuel prices and general inflation had sky-rocketed. There is just no room for peanuts increases and for that, we are prepared for war," he said.

At leading diamond producer owned by Anglo American, De Beers, the NUM wants an 8% raise for all its employees, but the company is only offering 1.5%. The union is also demanding a R30 000 three-year payment as part of an employee stock ownership plan, which it says must be paid in December. 

The strike threat comes as SA's mining industry is starting to ramp up production following a slump when the mines were shut during SA's hard lockdown. Some companies placed shafts under care and maintenance. 

"De Beers can afford to pay the wage increases and other benefits that the NUM members are demanding after the company recently recorded a 176% jump in rough diamond sales," said NUM.

In July, the De Beers group said its rough diamond production decreased by 27% to 11.3 million carats, compared to 15.6 million carats in the previous year, largely due to the Covid-19 lockdowns in southern Africa.

Union spokesperson, Livhuwani Mammburu, said the talks failed last month when the country was still under Level 2 of the lockdown. The move to Level 1 allows it mobilise at least 500 workers.  

The union also failed to agree with Exxaro Coal on an 7.5% wage increase. The company put forward a 5% offer. 

Exxaro head of Stakeholder Affairs, Mzila Mthenjane, said the company and the NUM were still engaged in discussions in a bid to find an "amicable resolution to the 2020 Exxaro Coal wage negotiations process".

"Our current wage offer is aligned with current mining industry trends and economic realities in the country."

Debt-laden Petra diamonds, which in June announce that it was looking for offers for the company or for parts of its assets, is offering a 4% wage hike, which NUM has rejected. The London-listed mine operates the Cullinan mine outside Pretoria.

Petra is also selling its exploration business in Botswana.

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