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Sibanye Gold not planning wage talks with Amcu

Amcu members voted in October to strike in the gold sector including at Sibanye.

FILE: Joseph Mathunjwa, president of AMCU, the second largest labour group in the gold sector told Reuters the union wants its members to be paid R12,500 per month.Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's Sibanye Gold said it would not hold further wage talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over wages, raising the prospect of industrial action in the struggling sector.

Amcu members voted in October to strike in the gold sector, including at Sibanye, but agreed not to down tools immediately pending talks with the gold producer.

Sibanye's decision to rule out further talks and its insistence that the union's members accept a pay agreement signed with other unions could trigger a reaction from the uncompromising labour group that led a record five-month strike in the platinum sector last year.

"Our right to strike is enshrined in the constitution," Amcu's Manzini Zungu said in response to Sibanye's stance.

Amcu president, Joseph Mathunjwa, told Reuters the union wants its members to be paid R12,500 per month, more than double their current wages of around R5,700.

Sibanye has said it has offered an increase of 14 percent.

After lengthy talks, gold producers signed pay agreements with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which retains the majority of members in the gold sector, and two smaller unions.

"As far as we are concerned, wage talks are over. We have now implemented the wage agreement at all of our operations," spokesman James Wellsted said.

South Africa's gold industry is being squeezed by falling prices and rising costs such as electricity and labour and companies are slashing costs to stay afloat.

"If this is not handled well by the employer it could lead to where we are seeing a prolonged negotiation become a strike," said labour analyst Mamokgethi Molopyane.

Amcu represents a minority of members in the sector totalling about 30,000 workers, who have given their go-ahead to strike at operations of Sibanye, AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony Gold, although not immediately.

Mathunjwa also said a labour court ordered Africa's top bullion producer AngloGold to rehire 539 workers who were fired in 2013 following an unofficial strike.

South Africa's mostly black mining labour force is increasingly restive two decades after the end of apartheid, with perceptions prevalent that the earnings which have been made in the industry have not flowed fairly to workers.