File picture: Dean Hutton

Johannesburg – South Africa's biggest miners union declared on Tuesday it was in dispute with employers' body the Chamber of Mines over a move to end collective bargaining on pay for coal miners and could call on its members in the industry to strike.

The National Union of Mineworkers said in a statement the Chamber had informed the NUM that it did not have an agreement with the coal companies to negotiate for them on pay this year.

The Chamber normally represents firms such as Anglo American Coal, Exxaro and Glencore, with pay negotiations in the sector due to start in June.

The NUM will now refer the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), said Peter Bailey, the NUM's chief negotiator for coal miners, adding that the union would start picketing immediately and could go on strike depending on the CCMA's response.

"If the Chamber of Mines wants an unproductive mining industry, if it is in search of the collapse of the coal industry and if the Chamber of Mines wants anarchy we can respond with anarchy," said Bailey.

The head of employment relations at the Chamber of Mines, Motsamai Motlhamme, said the organisation was waiting to receive formal notice of the dispute from the union and in the meantime would continue to engage with the unions.