South Africa’s AMCU Union to List Gold-Wage Demands by AprilPaul Burkhardt
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which led the longest mining strike in South Africa last year, said it will finalize its gold-wage demands by the end of the month as pay talks near.
The union, or AMCU, represents the majority of employees at the biggest mines of world No. 3 producer AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd., and at least a quarter of the industry’s 100,000 personnel. The country is the world’s sixth-biggest producer of the precious metal.
“Our relationships with these mines are not really cordial,” AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday. The union will present its demands next month, he said. “I don’t expect anything good” from the wage negotiations “because workers are being treated as slaves,” he said.
The four largest gold-mining companies in the country, including Gold Fields Ltd., have said productivity should be considered in the wage negotiations. They have sought to link pay increases to efficiency gains for at least a decade. The AMCU led a five-month strike in the platinum industry last year, which hobbled output at the local operations of the world’s three biggest producers of the metal.
The National Union of Mineworkers, which speaks for most of the country’s gold employees, said it may demand that entry-level wages be doubled. The NUM may also seek a 50 percent to 70 percent increase in housing allowances for some workers.
AMCU’s numbers have increased to more than a quarter of gold workers, though companies have delayed in processing the payroll information that would show the difference, Mathunjwa said. “I believe that NUM is no longer a majority in gold.”
South Africa’s laws don’t limit the duration of strikes. Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant has met with unions about this, and consultations have taken place at the National Economic Development and Labor Council, set up by law to promote dialogue on labor-market policy and legislation, Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant said this month.
The AMCU will resist any further legislation to limit the constitutionally protected right to strike, which is a worker’s “only tool” that can bring employers toward demands, Mathunjwa said.