Last minute settlement at De Beers

The National Union of Mineworkers agree to a six percent wage hike minutes before downing tools.

FILE: The National Union of Mineworkers' General Secretary Frans Baleni, at a news conference in Johannesburg. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - De Beers managed to avoid any interruptions at its mining operations on Friday night after reaching a wage agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) just minutes before the union was to go on strike.

Members of the union planned to down tools at all four of De Beers' sites as wage talks deadlocked earlier in the week.

The NUM was demanding a 13 percent pay hike while De Beers was offering six percent.

The union's Peter Bailey says the agreement was reached at the last minute.

"Twenty minutes before the strike would commence, we reached a settlement of nine percent across the board and two additional leave days."

He said it was also agreed that the A band category of positions would be phased out.

Meanwhile, the NUM's rival union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), are yet to agree to a peace deal in the mining sector.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa on Thursday said if some of his union's demands are not met, government's neutrality will come into question.

He made the comments following Wednesday's failed peace talks aimed at restoring stability to the troubled mining sector.

Mathunjwa refused to sign the agreement as he wanted to consult with members.

The deal was brokered by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and agreed upon by other major role players, including the NUM and the Chamber of Mines.

The NUM is affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) which is a member of the ruling tripartite alliance.

Mathunjwa said they were ready to bring up this issue if needed.

He says his members strongly believe unions shouldn't get involved in the business of mining.

"There mustn't be any union that has a business links where we are organising. There must not be any politicians that have a stake in any mining because we saw what happened in Marikana."

Miningmx writer David McKay said the demands could possibly derail the process as the NUM had interests in the sector.

"I think it's a dig at NUM and nothing else and it's a potential deal-breaker for this agreement."