De Beers Strike to Start as South Africa Unrest Reaches Diamonds

De Beers workers in South Africa will strike from tonight over pay, becoming the latest miners to down tools after Glencore Xstrata Plc employees walked out in May.

Strikes will go ahead at the Voorspoed operation in Free State province, Kimberley in Northern Cape province and Venetia in Limpopo province even as talks continue, said Peter Bailey, a negotiator for the National Union of Mineworkers. The action will also affect the company’s trading arm, Diamond Trading Co.

The union gave notice July 3 after meeting with De Beers representatives. The action follows a walkout at Glencore’s South African chrome operations after a supervisor was accused of assault. Tensions throughout the country’s mining industry remain high as companies and unions square up in regular wage talks at a time of weakening commodity demand and soaring costs.

Discussions between De Beers, which is a unit of Anglo American Plc (AAL), and union representatives have continued since the strike notice was delivered, Bailey said by telephone. The NUM demands a wage increase of 13 percent, while the company has offered 6 percent, according to the union. Workers are also seeking more leave.

Tom Tweedy, a De Beers spokesman, didn’t answer a call or immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. De Beers Consolidated Mines has 2,550 employees with 1,300 represented by the union, he said yesterday in an e-mail.

De Beers’s South African mines account for about 16 percent of the company’s total carats recovered. It also has operations in Botswana, Canada and Namibia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Burkhardt in Johannesburg at pburkhardt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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