300000 minersset to walk out

THE mining industry is bracing itself for the biggest strike ever with more than 300000 miners threatening to down tools in protest over an "insulting" wage increase offer.

THE mining industry is bracing itself for the biggest strike ever with more than 300000 miners threatening to down tools in protest over an "insulting" wage increase offer.

The National Union of Mineworkers yesterday warned that it would shut down the entire mining industry if mining bosses fail to meet its demand of a 15percent wage increase.

The strike threat comes after the Chamber of Mines, representing industry heavyweights Harmony, Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti, offered a 6percent wage increase for the gold sector - a figure the union's spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka described as an "absolute insult".

Insulted

"We are going to shut down the entire mining industry. We are consulting with our members and preparing for a possible strike. Our members have told us to bring them 15percent or we go on strike," Seshoka said.

"Inflation is at 8,4percent, food inflation at 14,9percent, and we feel insulted by the offer. The recession is not only affecting companies but also miners. Six percent of the R2800 that our members earn a month is absolutely nothing."

Seshoka said the union will make an announcement on the strike late next week after another round of negotiations.

He was supported by Jaco Kleynhans of Solidarity, who said that "the offer is so bad that we are not even going to take it to our members".

Kleynhans said: "The offer is below inflation. The starting point should be an offer that is in line with inflation."

He added that "the strike is becoming more and more possible".

Jabu Maphalala of the Chamber of Mines played down threats of a strike.

"Our understanding is that the process is still continuing. We are far from a strike."

He said the six percent was in addition to other benefits that the chamber has offered and that they were waiting for the union's response.

Economist Mike Schüssler warned that the mining industry is already under severe pressure, and that it does not need a strike.

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