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De Beers Miners to Strike as Soon as July 5 in South Africa

South African miners at De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond producer, will strike as early as July 5 after talks to mediate wage negotiations stalled, according to the National Union of Mineworkers.

“We’ve given notification to strike,” Peter Bailey, chief negotiator for the union, said by phone. The NUM represents almost 2,000 workers at the Anglo American Plc unit. “We are in a formal dispute,” he said.

Representatives from De Beers and the union met today at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration after disagreeing over wages. South Africa’s mining industry is negotiating with labor in regular wage talks in segments including diamonds, platinum, gold and coal.

“Several demands from the union, which all have high cost implications and which the union was not prepared to negotiate on, lead us to a point where we could not agree on a settlement,” Wayne Smerdon, De Beers’ lead negotiator, said in a statement. “The company had on the table a competitive offer which was sustainable into the future.” London-based Anglo owns 85 percent of De Beers.

Earlier Discussions

NUM lowered its demand to a 13 percent increase in wages from 17 percent, while De Beers moved up its offer half a percentage point to five percent in earlier discussions, according to Bailey. The union is asking for other adjustments, including a 1 percent increase in contributions to the pension fund, he said.

“De Beers hasn’t been willing to come in with a good offer,” Bailey said. The day shift on July 5 would be the earliest to strike, he said.

De Beers’ South Africa operations account for about 16 percent of total carats recovered. The company also has operations in Botswana, Canada and Namibia.

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