Productivity in South Africa's gold mines has regressed, says mining analyst Peter Major. Photo: AP
JOHANNESBURG - Gold producers AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony, Sibanye-Stillwater and Village Main Reef will today square off with trade unions the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Uasa as gold sector wage negotiations start in Boksburg.

NUM yesterday said that it would demand a two-year wage agreement, a R9500 entry-level wage for surface workers and a R10500 entry-level wage for underground workers. The union said it would demand a R3000 living out allowance and a R5000 housing allowance. It also said that the mining companies’ contribution to medical aid should be 70percent.

NUM’s other demands include an annual leave of 35 days, six months’ fully paid maternity leave, a minimum of 10 days for family responsibility leave and unlimited accident leave.

“As the NUM, we have always maintained that wages in the mining sector remained too low, and that was as a result of the apartheid legacy when the black mining labour force was ruthlessly exploited.

"The NUM also maintained that our average member typically has 10 dependants, straining their ability to provide for their families. We expect the employers to negotiate in good faith while respecting the central bargaining forum.”

Amcu last month said that it would demand a R12500 monthly minimum wage from the gold producers. The union said it would also demand an increase in benefits, including severance pay and transport allowances.

Peter Major, a mining analyst at Cadiz Corporate Solutions, said yesterday the negotiations will take place against the backdrop of a low gold price and poor productivity.

“Most of the mines can barely cover their costs. The future looks dicey. In a low gold price environment, productivity should improve every year,” said Major.

He said the South African gold miners’ productivity had regressed in the past few decades, “while the rest of the world’s productivity has gone up every year”.

The companies employ a total of 80000 people, according to the Minerals Council of South Africa.

 - BUSINESS REPORT