A strike that began at South Africa’s gold mines on September 3, ended after only three days, despite earlier union threats that the strike could last until Christmas. Gold producers represented in wage negotiations by the Chamber of Mines of South Africa (AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields Harmony Gold, Pan African Resources, Rand Uranium, Sibanye Gold, and Village Main Reef) announced on September 10 the finalization of a two-year wage settlement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), UASA and Solidarity.

The NUM, UASA and Solidarity collectively represent about 72% of the employees of the gold producers represented by the Chamber of Mines. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which represents about 19% of the workers, did not participate in the negotiations and as of late September was threatening to strike if its demands for a larger settlement were not met. The Chamber of Mines said the announced settlement would apply to all workers and that it would not engage in further negotiations regarding gold industry wages.

Under the agreed wage settlement, Category 4 and 5 employees and rock drill operators will receive increases of 8% and other employees 7.5%, effective July 1. Entry-level employees are guaranteed pay of R9,340/month. 

Employees will receive further increases linked to the consumer price index effective July 1, 2014. The current monthly living-out allowance of R1,640 will increase to R2,000 in two R180 steps, on September 1, 2013, and 2014. The minimum medical incapacity benefit will increase from R30,000 to R40,000 over the two years. (The South Africa Rand:US dollar exchange rate in late September was about 10:1.)

Prior to the strike, the unions had been seeking pay increases of as much as 60% (E&MJ, September 2013, p. 20).

Chamber of Mines chief negotiator Dr. Elize Strydom said the wage settlement was “more than employers would have preferred. However, we took the view that the agreement has helped secure stability in the industry for a two-year period. Overall, the settlement represents a reasonably balanced outcome in the best interests of shareholders, management, and employees.”

Dr. Strydom also commended all parties for their peaceful conduct during the strike, almost without exception. 

AMCU Calls for Strike against Amplats: In other South African labor news, AMCU on September 24 gave notice to Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) that its members would go on strike against the company on Friday, September 27. The strike would be in protest to an Amplats announcement on August 19 of a restructuring plan under which 6,000 operational jobs would be lost, along with the jobs of 900 other corporate employees. The new plan is a revision of an earlier plan announced in January that would have resulted in up to 14,000 jobs lost.

AMCU is the dominant union at South Africa’s platinum mines.