The Chamber of Mines, representing AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony, on October 25, 2012, negotiated an agreement between mining house and striking South African miners that allowed most of them to return to work. Unfortunately, a flare up occurred this week again at Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) Rustenburg operation preventing those miners from returning to work.

The Chamber of Mines together with the NUM, Solidarity and UASA, have signed an agreement to give effect to clause 11 of the 2011- 2013 Chamber Gold Wage Agreement. The agreement provides that:

  • Category 3 employees will all be placed in the higher Category 4, which will now be the entry level for the companies;
  • The salaries of the Category 4 to 8 employees will be raised by between 1.5% and 2%;
  • A new operator level for Loader, Locomotive, Winch and Water Jet Operators will be created within Category 4 and their basic rates will be adjusted by between R250 and R400 per month; and
  • The Rock Drill Operators will either have their basic rates adjusted by R500 or will receive an allowance of R400.

All of these adjustments are in addition to the salary increases that took effect on July 1, 2012, and which ranged from 8.5% to 10%.

“Stability in the gold mining industry has been achieved at many of the operations and there are hopes that this trend will continue. The safe resumption of normal mining operations is now the top priority,” said Dr. Elize Strydom, senior executive of employment relations at the Chamber of Mines.

She also indicated that “the unprotected industrial action has had a negative impact on the gold mining industry, the country’s economy, and on the employees themselves who have forfeited millions of Rands in lost earnings.”

“The gold companies and the unions are determined collectively to chart a way forward for the industry that will strengthen the structures of collective bargaining and avoid a repetition of recent events. In this regard, the on-going work of the Sindisa Gold initiative aimed at optimizing the use of the mining assets and improving productivity with a completion deadline of March 2013 will be critical,” said Dr. Strydom.

The parties have reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the safety of employees and protecting them from acts of violence and intimidation.

While many miners have returned to work, the news for Amplats is not so good. The company reported last week that it had entered into discussions with its “recognized unions” (NUM, NUMSA, UASA) to explore options to facilitate the return to work of the Union and Amandelbult mine employees who are engaged in illegal strike action. The status of the 12,000 dismissed Rustenburg employees also formed part of the discussions. The discussions between the parties have been focused solely on exploring options of ensuring striking employees return to work and did not include any wage negotiations.

At a meeting held October 26, all parties expressed commitment for a return to work. The company made an offer to facilitate a return to work of all striking employees by no later than October 30, 2012. The offer included the reinstatement of the dismissed Rustenburg employees. Employees could return to work on the same terms and conditions of employment as applied before the illegal industrial action commenced and will receive a final written disciplinary warning.

On October, 30, however, protesters set fire to a power station at the Rustenburg operations and blocked entrances. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at about 1,000 protesters. Amplats is the last major mining company unable to bring production on line due to labor unrest.