Johannesburg - The two-year wage agreement signed in the gold industry is a victory for collective bargaining and labour relations, trade union Solidarity said on Wednesday.
“The negotiations took place against the backdrop of violent unprotected strikes and immense pressure in the gold industry,” general secretary Gideon du Plessis said in a statement.
“The agreement is not satisfactory for trade unions or employers, but is indicative of compromises that both parties had to make in order to put the sustainability of the gold industry first.”
On Tuesday, the Chamber of Mines, representing gold producers, signed a wage agreement with Solidarity, Uasa and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Du Plessis said the agreement could be the turning point that puts the gold industry on the winning path after the chamber and trade unions “rose above their differences” to sign the agreement.
The three unions that signed represent about 72 percent of workers. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which represents 19 percent of workers did not sign.
In terms of the agreement, category four and five employees and rock drill operators would receive an eight percent increase and other employees a 7.5 percent increase from July 1.
In July 2014, employees will receive a consumer price index-linked increase.
The current monthly living out allowance of R1640 would increase to R2000 in two R180 steps, on September 1, 2013, and again in 2014.
Du Plessis said the agreement was extended to all employees in the gold sector and all negotiations in the sector had come to an end.
He applauded the NUM for the way it demonstrated the frustration of its members with a “short and disciplined strike”.
“The NUM leadership and NUM members' understanding of the challenges in the gold industry is demonstrated by their acceptance of the chamber's revised offer,” he said.
“The agreement in various respects falls short in addressing employees' challenges, but does not put their job security in jeopardy.”
Solidarity called on Amcu to sign the agreement in the interest of the sustainability of the gold industry and their members' job security.
Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said the union would have a meeting with the Chamber of Mines on Friday.
“We will serve a strike notice if talks deadlock on Friday,” he said on Tuesday.
Amcu members had rejected the eight percent wage increase at their central mass meeting in Carletonville and voted to strike.
Amcu was demanding R12,500 for entry level workers but companies said they could not afford big pay rises.
Gold producers spokeswoman Charmane Russell said they would continue to meet with Amcu to discuss the implementation of the wage agreement, as well as the detail and implications for all employees and the role that Amcu could play in the implementation of the various clauses of the agreement.
She said it was within the law that an agreement signed by majority unions was passed on to minority unions and non-unionised workers.
The Chamber of Mines represents AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Rand Uranium, Harmony Gold, Evander Gold, Sibanye Gold, and Village Main Reef.
Chamber of Mines chief negotiator Elize Strydom said the wage settlement was reached at levels that were more than employers would have preferred but was taken to secure stability in the industry for a two-year period.
On Monday, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold said striking workers had returned to work. - Sapa