Pay deal averts strike in the mining sector

A STRIKE by about 200000 workers in the coal and gold mining sectors has been averted with the signing of wage agreements yesterday.

The unions, which were demanding a 15percent increase in the coal and gold sectors, settled for different figures.

Coal miners will get 9percent for the higher category of employees and 11percent for the lower category, while gold miners pocket 10,5percent for the lower category and 9percent for the higher category.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said though it accepted the offer, the union was not happy with the way negotiations had gone this year.

Labour expert Andrew Levy said the agreements were "very fair and reasonable" at a time when the mining industry was not doing well.

According to labour analysts any strike action would have resulted in job losses since the mining industry is in a vulnerable state.

Gideon du Plessis, who negotiated on behalf of trade union Solidarity, said his union, which largely represents workers in the coal sector, was "satisfied" with the 9percent.

"In the light of the current economic recession we didn't want to push employers for a high wage hike that would later result in retrenchments," he said.

The agreement comes a week after the NUM sent an open letter to the Chamber of Mines, highlighting why it would not settle for a below-inflation rate wage hike.

"You always find a reason not to pay us better. Last year it was due to Eskom power cuts, the other year it was the gold crisis. This year is the recession. Mr or Madam Chamber, we as workers have been in recession for as long as we can remember and have always asked you to come to our rescue, but you have always refused to help," the letter said.

"This year, it is your turn to be in recession and you want us to help even though gold is a safe haven for investors. We refuse to participate in your recession for we are dealing with our own recession."