Harmony Gold Mining Co. said many of its 5,400 striking workers returned to the Kusasalethu mine in South Africa after rivals began dismissing almost four times that number of miners after they stayed away from work in an illegal pay dispute.
The workers returned by the deadline at 6 a.m. local time after the company issued a final ultimatum at the mine near Carletonville after they walked out on Oct. 2, said Marian van der Walt, a company spokeswoman, in an interview today .
Kusasalethu has lost about 20 days’ production, which represents almost 13,000 ounces of gold output, because of the strike, Harmony, Africa’s third-largest producer of the metal, said Oct. 23.
AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and Gold Fields Ltd., the world’s third- and fourth-biggest producers, have begun steps to fire more than 20,000 workers in South Africa as ultimatums on unauthorized walkouts passed.
The dismissal process has started for 12,000 AngloGold workers, the company said yesterday. Gold Fields said in a statement yesterday that 7,000 out of 8,100 workers fired at its KDC East mine are appealing against the company’s move.
AngloGold said it remains in dialog with employees over the dismissals at its mines.
Platinum miner Anglo American Platinum Ltd. has fired 12,000 people in a similar dispute.
Gold producers represented by the Chamber of Mines expect to sign an accord today with labor unions.
Negotiations broke down in talks at the chamber on Oct. 15 after gold producers offered to scrap entry-level wages, bump workers up to the next band of pay and award other employees an additional 1.5 percent to 2 percent wage increase. The companies already agreed last year to raise salaries by 7.5 percent to 10 percent for 2012. South Africa’s annual inflation rate was 5.5 percent in September.
“We really want the workers to return,” Lesiba Seshoka, a spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, the country’s largest union, said in a phone interview yesterday. “We’re talking to the workers and we’re quite hopeful that workers will consider it favorably,” he said of the accord.