Security beefed up in gold sector

Around 80,000 NUM members have downed tools in the gold mining sector.

NUM Secretary General Frans Baleni. Picture: SAPA.

JOHANNESBURG - As members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) prepare to down tools in the mining sector today, gold producers say contingency plans are in place and security has been beefed up.

Around 80,000 workers will go on strike for higher wages.

The industrial action follows unsuccessful talks between the union and the Chamber of Mines at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) where the employers' final offer of just over 6 percent was tabled.

The NUM is demanding upwards of 60 percent.

Gold producers spokeswoman Charmaine Russell says the companies have been working since last year to improve their safety and contingency plans for the strike.

"Security personnel are in place and are well prepared. At the same time the companies have been working very closely with the SAPS."

She says locking workers out is one of the options available to mine bosses, but will only be considered under specific circumstances.

"This will only happen if we really can't get a negotiated settlement and also in the event of safety and security risks."

The NUM's spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the union has been forced to call a strike due to the low wage offer.

"We don't believe the chamber's offer of between 6 and 6.5 percent are the right figures especially because it's equivalent to an increase of only R300 per month."

Trade union Solidarity has thrown its support behind the mass action.

"Our members must support the NUM whilst on strike by not doing the work of the NUM members to ensure the NUM strike is successful," said the union's Gideon du Plessis.

Gold companies are expected to lose millions of Rands per day as a result of the strike which could last for at least three weeks.

Meanwhile, the chamber's chief negotiator Elize Strydom said she believed their wage offer was fair considering "the financial realities within which the mining industry finds itself."

The strike will begin with NUM members refusing to go underground for the night shift.

Gold producers on Johannesburg's West Rand will be the worst affected.

The NUM is the first mining union to go on strike over wages this year.

Last year's strikes were accompanies by several incidents of violence and intimidation which has created uneasy tensions in the industry.