• NUM union accepts offer three months after talks started
  • AMCU union requests meetings with South African gold producers

The biggest union in South Africa’s gold industry accepted a wage offer from the largest producers including AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., the world’s No. 3 miner of bullion.

The National Union of Mineworkers and the smaller UASA and Solidarity unions will sign the agreement on Friday at 2 p.m., NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi and UASA Head of Mining Franz Stehring told reporters east of Johannesburg.

The companies have sought to avoid a repeat of last year’s five-month strike at platinum mines that crippled output, stifled economic growth and led to job losses. Gold has fallen 42 percent from a June 2011 peak, and the largest producers in South Africa, whose mines are the deepest and among the oldest in the world, are losing money on about 35 percent of production at current prices.

While the NUM is looking at the draft agreement, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, has asked for meetings with all the companies, Elize Strydom, chief negotiator for the producers at the Chamber of Mines lobby group, told reporters in Johannesburg.

NUM represents 53 percent of employees working in South Africa’s biggest gold mines, while the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union speaks for 31 percent of them.

Sibanye Gold Ltd. and AngloGold proposed on July 30 to raise monthly pay for entry-level workers by 1,000 rand ($72) annually for the three years starting July 1. Harmony Gold Mining Co. offered a 500-rand increase. Basic pay is currently about 5,800 rand.

Sibanye, the biggest producer of South African gold, requires all four unions sign the wage agreement for it to apply. The company faces a “difficult decision,” Strydom said Thursday. The chamber will explore its options if the other companies reach an agreement with labor, she said.

The NUM speaks for 43 percent of members at Sibanye, while AMCU has 42 percent and could potentially engage in a protected strike at the company.

“They are trying to push on us that everyone must sign the agreement” at Sibanye, the NUM’s Sipunzi said. “But if our members sign they should benefit. They should implement the agreement.”

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