Johannesburg - Wage talks in South Africa's coal sector will continue on Thursday after unions and companies made some progress on Wednesday, labour sources said.
Unions have been seeking wage hikes of up to 60 percent for entry-level workers and 15 percent for other categories but a speedy resolution to a gold strike earlier this month has raised hopes that such action can be averted in the coal fields.
Frans Baleni, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), told Reuters the union had “modified” its demands and was hoping for a revised offer from employers.
He said the gap was closing.
A source with the Solidarity Union, which represents mostly skilled workers, told Reuters that “negotiations were at a very sensitive stage” and that the sides would meet again at midday on Thursday.
Solidarity had been seeking increases of around 10 percent.
A coal strike would be further bad news for Africa's largest economy, already reeling from the impact of the brief gold stoppage and a far more serious one in the auto making sector that cost companies $2 billion in lost revenue.
But a protracted coal strike, which could affect supplies to the country's power utility Eskom, does not seem likely.
South Africa is the world's fifth largest coal producer and is a major exporter of the commodity.
Last year it shipped 68.3 million tonnes of coal from the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.
South Africa's Chamber of Mines is negotiating on behalf of several coal producers including units of global mining giants Anglo American and Glencore.
About 20,000 unionised workers are involved in the talks.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which takes a harder line with companies than its rival NUM, does not have members at the coal producers in the negotiations. - Reuters