Picture: Itumeleng English
JOHANNESBURG - The association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has warned that the gold industry could be brought to its knees if a solution is not reached during the upcoming wage negotiations.

The union this week extended its R12500 minimum wage a month to gold producers including Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and AngloGold Ashanti, charging that this was a living wage. Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said the demand could put workers in a better place against higher taxes and fuel price.

Mathunjwa said the union also wanted an increase in benefits including severance pay to transport costs, longer maternity leave and a five-day work week instead of the shift system. “We cannot pre-empt the outcomes of these gold commodity wage negotiations,” Mathunjwa said. “We will engage the companies with facts and figures in persuading them in a living wage mandate and other conditions of employment.”

Amcu embarked on a five-months strike in the platinum belt in 2012, demanding a minimum wage of R12500 in the sector. Thirty-four mine workers were killed by police, shot outside Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg. Ten others, including security personnel and police officers, died in violent clashes days preceding the massacre.

Harmony Gold spokesperson Sihle Maake said the company was collaborating with other gold mining companies.

“We are not at liberty to say anything.” She referred further questions to communications agency Russell and Associates’ Memory Johnstone, who handled communication on behalf of the Minerals Council South Africa.

AngloGold Ashanti spokesperson Chris Nthite said: “The negotiations will get under way. We will respond in due course with our own offer. There will be intense negotiations.”

The National Union of Mineworkers, the biggest union in the gold industry, is reportedly demanding a two-year agreement, calling for entry-level underground pay of R10500 a month.

Spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said negotiations in the sector had not yet started. He, however, confirmed that the union had submitted its demands to the Minerals Council of South Africa. The council's Johnstone said gold producers had received the demands of all the unions participating in centralised collective bargaining. “The gold companies, under the auspices of the Minerals Council, will engage on the contents thereof during wage negotiations which will start in due course.”