Court to Rule on Strike Plan at Biggest South African Gold Mines

A South African court will rule tomorrow whether a strike over wages called by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction at the country’s largest gold producers would be allowed to proceed.

The Chamber of Mines, representing producers such as AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (ANG), Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co. (HAR), asked the Johannesburg Labour Court to halt a proposed strike scheduled to start Jan. 23, Charmane Russell, a Chamber spokeswoman at Russell and Associates, said today by phone. The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

“The order of the court will be followed,” AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said by phone. “It goes both ways. If the court rules in our favor then the gold companies should respect that as well.”

While the AMCU represents about 19 percent of workers in South Africa’s gold industry, it is the biggest at some of the largest mines such as Harmony’s Kusasalethu, Sibanye’s Driefontein and AngloGold’s Mponeng. The union yesterday served notice for the strike after rejecting a two-year pay deal reached between the chamber and the National Union of Mineworkers, the largest labor representative at gold companies, in September for increases of as much as 8 percent.

The chamber’s members see the workplace as the company as a whole and don’t look at individual mines or operations, said Elize Strydom, the organization’s chief wage negotiator.

“The fact that you’re the majority at Mponeng at AngloGold does not help you,” she said by phone from Johannesburg. “In the greater scheme of things, in the workplace which is the whole of AngloGold, you are the minority. Now it will be in the hands of the presiding judge to decide.”

If the court grants the companies the order, a strike “would amount to serious misconduct, which means there is the possibility of dismissal,” Strydom said.

AngloGold declined for the first time in four days, losing 0.8 percent to 150.05 rand by 10:17 a.m. in Johannesburg. Harmony lost 3.1 percent, the most since Jan. 15, to 29.95 rand and Sibanye (SGL) slipped 1.2 percent to 14.33 rand.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andre Janse van Vuuren in Johannesburg at ajansevanvuu@bloomberg.net; Kevin Crowley in Johannesburg at kcrowley1@bloomberg.net

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

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