South Africa’s Unions to Meet on Construction, Fuel Strikes

South African unions plan to hold new wage talks with employers this week to resolve strikes by about 160,000 workers in the construction and motor industries.

The National Union of Mineworkers plans to meet with the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors today, NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said by phone, urging employers to be “more responsive.” The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa will meet the Fuel Retailers Association tomorrow, according to the labor group’s treasurer, Mphumzi Maqungo.

The NUM is leading a strike of 90,000 members in the construction industry that started Aug. 26. About 70,000 workers at fuel retailers, car dealerships and component makers stopped work yesterday, Maqungo said.

Africa’s biggest economy is wracked by labor strikes as unions ask for wage increases higher than the inflation rate. Consumer prices rose 6.3 percent in July, breaching the upper limit of the central bank’s target. The central bank expects the economy to grow by 2 percent in 2013 in the face of weak business and consumer confidence and sluggish global demand.

Work stoppages affecting carmakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG ended after 15 days of picketing, marches and improved offers from the employers. South African Airways’ technical staff, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, signed an agreement today, according to an e-mailed statement from the airline.

Mining Strikes

While mining strikes are less violent and more contained than last year, labor action is unlikely to end in the industry, Mark Rosenberg, an Africa analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group, said in a note to clients.

All unions except for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union have accepted a wage increase offered by gold producers through the Chamber of Mines.

The AMCU, representing 19 percent of mineworkers, is the largest labor organization at AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.’s Mponeng, Harmony Gold Ltd.’s Kusasalethu and Sibanye Gold Ltd.’s Driefontein sites. The three are the companies’ biggest South African operations.

The AMCU requested a meeting with the chamber yesterday, its president, Joseph Mathunjwa, said in a phone interview.

“The Chamber will argue that its deal with the majority National Union of Mineworkers should apply to all workers, including those belonging to AMCU,” Rosenberg said.

Eurasia also estimates a 60 percent chance of strikes in the platinum industry, where wage agreements are being negotiated individually between unions and companies, and a 50 percent probability of strikes in coal mines.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration is mediating wage talks between coal producers and unions after talks deadlocked on Aug. 12. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18, according to the Chamber of Mines.

The NUM is considering a revised wage offer presented by coal producers last week, its secretary-general, Frans Baleni, said in a phone interview yesterday.

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