Gold mining sector faced with threats of job cuts

The warnings come as the gold mining sector is about to enter wage talks.

Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - With the gold mining sector to go into wage talks over the next two months, there have already been threats of jobs cuts and condemnation of high executive pay from companies and unions.

The Chamber of Mines will facilitate the talks between unions including Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the United Association of South Africa (UASA) and Solidarity at Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold, Village Main Reef, AngloGold Ashanti and Evander Gold mines.

This morning there are also reports that harmony will cut 400 jobs.

Unions are expected to ask for a wage on par with platinum mineworkers who received an increase of more than 50 percent.

The Mineral Resources' Department's special advisor Advocate Sam Muhlodi says, "The five-month strike last year is not something that South Africans would want to see again. We hope and trust that negotiators will be alive to the fact that the bigger picture is more important than moving far apart from each other."

But president of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Andrew Chirwa, says executive and CEO pay will once again determine how much they're willing to compromise.

"If the executive wages continue to be where they are, if their salaries are the same and they continue to take bonuses, why must workers take a knock? And we know this is a threat we live with in any capitalist society, capital continues to restructure production as to weaken workers."

Late last month, government responded to Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu)'s public sector wage demands, saying it simply could not afford the bill but was willing to renegotiate the terms of the increases.

Acting Public Service Minister Nathi Mthethwa held a briefing in Pretoria, just a day after the federation led a march of 11,000 workers through Pretoria's City Centre to hand over a memorandum to the National Treasury and Department of Public Service and Administration.

Cosatu and its affiliates have demanded a 10 percent wage hike, against government's offer of 5,8 percent.

But Mthethwa says government's offer included a 28 percent contribution to medical aid, and a housing allowance increase of 33 percent.

"We listened carefully to what Cosatu had to say. However, what we are offering in terms of percentages, government cannot go beyond that."

But the minister says that if it's simply about the pay cheque, government could return to the negotiating table.

"We will withdraw what we have offered and restart the negotiations so that we respond to what they say, especially on the emphasis on the cost of living adjustment."

Meanwhile, government said it didn't believe the current public sector wage negotiations would lead to a strike, despite threats from labour.

Mthethwa said it was too early to contemplate industrial action.

"I don't think from the negotiating parties, any one has emphasised the issue of the strike. Labour is as committed as government to want to find an amicable solution."

He said government was offering 5,8 percent because it could not afford anything more.

"Government relies, for revenue, on economic growth. We do have a problem that our projections on our economic growth have not yielded fruit."

Cosatu has also called on the Public Service Department to change its negotiators at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council, and warned that if they didn't, a strike by more than half a million public servants was imminent.