S. Africa Coal Miners Make Offer to Union in Bid to End Strike

  • Deal is below the 14 percent pay increase workers wanted
  • Chamber of Mines says more strikes undermines jobs, industry

South Africa’s coal producers offered workers less money than they demanded to get them to end an almost week-long strike.

Lower-paid employees may get an extra 750 rands ($56) to 1,000 rands per month in the first year and guaranteed increases of 7.5 percent in the second year, the Chamber of Mines said in an e-mailed statement. The offer was made on behalf of Anglo American Plc, Glencore Plc and Exxaro Resources Ltd. The union has said it will take the offer to its employees Sunday.

“The coal producers are facing subdued demand and price pressures. The offers we have made are at the limit of what is affordable,” the Chamber said in the statement. “Further strike action will continue to undermine the sustainability of the industry and jobs.”

The National Union of Mineworkers had been demanding increases of as much as 14 percent for its members. The producers and unions began conciliation talks after reaching a deadlock in negotiations in August. The strike, which started on Oct. 4, was the the first related to wage negotiations in coal since 2011.

Higher-skilled workers will get raises of 5 percent to 7.5 percent annually. All employees have been offered higher allowances for living-out and housing.

Labor relations in the coal industry are regarded as more stable than gold or platinum because there are fewer workers and more machinery. The mineral supplies the fuel used for most of South Africa’s power generation.

The industry directly employs almost 90,000 people and paid about 19 billion rand in wages in 2014, according to the Chamber of Mines. The talks have taken place as the price of South African export coal has dropped about 29 percent in the past year.

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