The biggest union at Namdeb Diamond Corp., the gem-producing joint venture between Anglo American Plc’s De Beers unit and Namibia, said its members will strike on July 18 after pay talks broke down.
The Mineworkers Union of Namibia wants a 15 percent raise in basic wages, improved medical aid and education benefits for its 1,400 members at the company, branch spokesman Mathew Nangombe said by phone. Namdeb, which employs 1,700 people, is offering increases of 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent. The inflation rate was 6.1 percent in May.
“The only option is to strike,” Nangombe said from Oranjemund, about 840 kilometers (522 miles) south of Windhoek, the capital. “We held a mass meeting with workers on Friday and they said they are not interested in the company’s offer. A vote will be conducted on Wednesday and thereafter we will give a 45-hour notice to strike.”
The threat of a stoppage comes less than three weeks after a five-month strike ended at Anglo’s platinum operations in neighboring South Africa. Output by Namdeb rose 6 percent to 1.76 million carats in 2013. Namibia produces the world’s highest-quality diamonds from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean and is the largest miner of marine gems.
The lowest-paid mineworker earns a basic salary of 6,400 Namibian dollars ($598) monthly, according to the union. Employees are also made to pay “expensive medical aid” and can no longer afford the school fees they are paying at a company-sponsored school, Nangombe said.
“We are not demanding luxuries, we can’t afford the medical aid and the fees,” he said. “The company has to push up our wages.”
Namdeb spokeswoman Pauline Thomas declined to comment on the strike threat when contacted by phone.