Tags: Strike | South Africa | Gold Mines | Workers

Strike Starts in South Africa's Gold Mines

Tuesday, 03 Sep 2013 01:51 PM

A strike in South Africa's gold mines began on Tuesday with some workers failing to go underground for the evening shift, despite an appeal by President Jacob Zuma for a solution to avert a stoppage that will hurt Africa's largest economy.

"It has officially started. There are people who have not gone underground," Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for gold producers grouped in the Chamber of Mines, told Reuters.

She said it was too early to give details of how many workers were supporting the strike over wages called by the country's main mining union, NUM, or which specific mines were affected.

The stoppage was called by the National Union of Mineworkers, which represents two thirds of the workers in South Africa's gold mines, after weeks of talks between unions and companies broke down last week.

Labor unrest since last year has left more than 50 people dead and put renewed pressure on Zuma ahead of elections next year. The rand last week slid to a four-year low.

With stoppages in auto and building sectors already hitting an economy suffering from slow growth and unemployment at 25 percent, strikes could cripple an industry that has produced a third of the world's bullion but is now in rapid decline.

"A strike hurts both sides. They must find a solution," Zuma said at a briefing with reporters in Pretoria.

His comments were echoed by Mining Minister Susan Shabangu, who said the government was willing to intervene to help both sides "find each other soon."

"If indeed we are going to have a protracted industrial action, it will impact negatively on the economy," she told Reuters at the presidential briefing.

"If there is a need for government to intervene, we will engage the parties," she said.

Economists say South Africa's economy can ill afford the lost output — estimated at more than $35 million a day — from an industry shutdown in gold.

Labor and management are poles apart on wages, with the dominant NUM seeking 60 percent pay hikes for entry-level miners and the more hard-line Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), pushing for 150 percent.

Companies say they cannot afford the hikes in the face of soaring costs and depressed prices.

The industry has offered pay increases of up to 6.5 percent.

The president of South Africa's Chamber of Mines, which represents major bullion producers such as AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold, has warned unions against building up workers' hopes.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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A strike in South Africa's gold mines began on Tuesday with some workers failing to go underground for the evening shift, despite an appeal by President Jacob Zuma for a solution to avert a stoppage that will hurt Africa's largest economy.
Strike,South Africa,Gold Mines,Workers
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2013-51-03
Tuesday, 03 Sep 2013 01:51 PM
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