South African Gold Miners Plan Protests as 5% Pay Offer Rejected

The National Union of Mineworkers, representing almost two-thirds of South African gold miners, plans protests after rejecting an offer to raise pay 5 percent.

“We will be rolling out protest action in various mines,” Frans Baleni, secretary-general of the NUM, told reporters today in Johannesburg. Union members will march on the Chamber of Mines, a lobby group for owners, during August, Baleni said.

The union wants higher wages, including a 60 percent jump for entry-level jobs to 8,000 rand ($814) a month. Gold prices that are down 20 percent this year, higher costs and lower productivity prevent producers from meeting union demands, said Elize Strydom, the Chamber of Mines’ chief negotiator.

“For them to plead poverty is just unacceptable,” Baleni said, citing the 45.3 million rand paid to Gold Fields Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer Nick Holland in salary, bonuses, pension contributions, share proceeds and expense allowances last year.

That figure increased 39 percent from a year earlier, according to data in Gold Fields’ 2012 annual report.

South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration will seek to broker a solution to the dispute in a process that can last as long as 30 days.

Consumer price inflation is running at 5.5 percent a year, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Mine workers are experiencing inflation of CPI plus 3 to 5 percentage points, Baleni said.

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