African strike stops work of gold mines

South African gold miners organized a strike Monday, demanding to increase wages in the world's biggest bullion producer. It is the first industry-wide strike in 18 years and the number of strikers is about 100.000. In at least three other sectors, unions are balloting their members in preparation for possible industrial action.

Municipal workers are demanding an eight percent wage increase while the South African Local Government Association (Salga) has offered six percent., The Star informs.

Negotiations deadlocked after unions rejected a three-year wage increase offer of six percent and a proposed minimum wage of R2 300.

Wage negotiations between Salga and the two municipal workers' unions - the SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union, affiliated to the Federation of Unions of SA - began in April this year.

Workers followed up a one-day strike on July 12 with a three-day work stoppage that began on July 27.

Now, they say the warnings are over and it has come down to a war of attrition.

Samwu president Petrus Mashishi said: "At the moment there are no negotiations. We have deadlocked and the strike will continue until we reach an agreement."

He said provinces would decide what action their members should take, be it a simple work stoppage, picketing or marches.

"The strike is 100 percent countrywide, all our people, about 100,000 of them are on strike," Gwede Mantashe, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), told Reuters.

The strike started across the country on Sunday at 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT).

South Africa's gold industry accounts for around 15 percent of total global output, and the mining sector contributes about 8 percent to the nation's gross domestic product.

A strike would lead to the loss of around 28,000 ounces of gold production and 79 million rand in lost revenue per day, a Deutsche Securities analyst has estimated.

The strike would paralyse the South African mines of the world's No. 2 gold producer AngloGold Ashanti, fourth-ranked Gold Fields, sixth-placed Harmony Gold and South Deep, a joint venture of South Africa's Western Areas and Canada's Placer Dome.

Despite improved offers from two companies, last-minute talks failed to yield a deal on Sunday.

In 11th-hour talks, AngloGold and South Deep offered wage hikes of between 5.25 and 6.5 percent, the NUM said.

Mantashe said the union would seek out the views of its members on improved offers and respond on Monday afternoon.

"The various branches are talking to the miners countrywide about the offers and we will be in touch with the companies. Discussions will be on-going until we find a way out," he said.

Two unions called the strike after rejecting the latest offer by the Chamber of Mines, of a 4.5 to 5.0 percent wage rise plus bonus payments.

The Solidarity union with about 10,000 members will join the strike just before midnight on Monday, and a third 15,000-strong union will decide whether to join the strike on Monday.

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