Johannesburg - South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Monday signed an above-inflation wage agreement with coal producers, averting a possible strike that could have hit exports and supplies to power utility Eskom.
“We have signed the coal wage agreement,” Frans Baleni, General Secretary of NUM, told Reuters, adding the agreement was for increases of 7 percent to 11 percent, above consumer inflation that was at 6.4 percent in August.
The agreement is the same as what the companies, including units of global mining giants Anglo American and Glencore Xstrata, had earlier made as their final offer.
An industrial action would have been costly for South Africa, the world's fifth-largest coal producer and a leading exporter of the commodity to markets in Europe and Asia.
It would also have put pressure on state-owned Eskom, which uses coal to generate 85 percent of the electricity powering Africa's biggest economy.
The coal industry has largely avoided the violence that rocked the gold and platinum sectors last year.
That violence, rooted in a turf war between the once-unrivalled NUM and newcomer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), resulted in the deaths of dozens of workers and cost the country billions of dollars.
South Africa's Chamber of Mines, a mining industry body, negotiated on behalf of several coal producers, while about 20,000 unionised workers were involved in the talks.
Separately, a strike by AMCU members at Anglo American Platinum, another unit of Anglo American, entered its fourth day on Monday, as workers rallied to protest planned job cuts at the world's top producer of platinum.
AMCU was not involved in the coal wage talks. - Reuters