South African Union Wants to Double Basic Pay at Gold Mines

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South Africa’s second-biggest gold-mining union demanded more than double the basic wages for entry-level workers.

“Mineworkers are enslaved across the country, across the mining sector, so whatever we put forward is to liberate the mineworkers in this economic oppression,” Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters Wednesday in Johannesburg.

The AMCU, which mining companies say represents about 29 percent of the 94,500 employees at AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co., wants the lowest wage band to rise to 12,500 rand ($1,043) a month from July 1, with housing benefits also doubled to 4,000 rand.

The union led a five-month strike with the same minimum wage demand in South Africa’s platinum industry last year, crippling output by the world’s three biggest producers of the precious metal. The larger National Union of Mineworkers wants minimum basic pay for gold workers of 10,500 rand a month, three people with knowledge of the matter said this week. South Africa is the world’s sixth-biggest gold producer.

AngloGold, Sibanye and Harmony, due to start pay talks in June, now pay 5,790 rand a month to entry-level workers, according to the Chamber of Mines industry lobby.

Mathunjwa said his union speaks for about 40,000 employees in the gold industry, more than the 27,662 given by the chamber. The AMCU wants a membership audit before talks begin, he said.

The chamber’s figures don’t reflect the payments the AMCU receives from members working at gold mines, Mathunjwa said.

There are 7,581 gold employees unaffiliated with a union, 50,695 in the NUM, 6,209 in the UASA labor group and 2,286 in the Solidarity organization, according to the chamber.

In its demands, the AMCU is also seeking improvements in benefits, including medical insurance and retirement packages.

“I’ve never seen any mineworker after leaving employment go and build a house based on the money he received” from the retirement scheme known as the Provident Fund, Mathunjwa said. “We haven’t started negotiating but all the components” are essential to daily life, not luxury living, he said.

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