GOLD mining companies have presented a restructured proposal that trade unions will take back to their members at the weekend in an attempt to end illegal strikes that have cost the sector billions of rand in lost revenue.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) received a mixed response to a proposal tabled by the Chamber of Mines last week, which addressed the salaries of the lowest-paid underground workers in terms of a clause in the current two-year wage deal.
At talks that resumed at the chamber on Thursday between AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold, and three unions recognised by the companies — the NUM, Solidarity and Uasa — a revised offer was presented for unions. Talks resume on Monday.
"We have restructured the proposal," Alan Fine, AngloGold’s spokesman, said on Thursday.
Another participant at the talks described the changes as "tweaks and a cleaning up of last week’s proposal to make it more attractive to workers".
It was also described as an AngloGold process. The company is shedding 32,000oz of gold a week from its seven operations, which are all shut due to the illegal strike.
" There is an improvement for certain categories and we can take this back to members and possibly bring the strikes to an end," Frans Baleni, the NUM’s general secretary, said on Thursday. "This has been a long strike… We hope we can conclude it and get people back to work."
Thousands of strikers returned to work at Gold Fields’ Beatrix and Kloof Driefontein Complex (KDC) West mines after the company warned it would fire workers not reporting for duty on Thursday.
But the 11,000 Gold Fields workers who clocked in ahead of the deadline could merely be trying to avoid being dismissed. Attendance levels for Friday’s morning shift will indicate whether the strike is over, Willie Jacobsz, Gold Fields spokesman, said on Thursday.
About 1,500 workers did not clock in by the 2pm deadline on Thursday, and Gold Fields regarded them as dismissed. They have 24 hours in which to appeal against their dismissals, Mr Jacobsz said.
Mr Jacobsz said the new offer would apply retrospectively to Gold Fields’ workers.
At Gold Fields’ KDC East mines, 8,000 workers are still on strike demanding changes to the NUM branch leadership, a matter not related to strikes at KDC West and Beatrix. The ultimatum did not apply to them and the mine is still at a standstill.
Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine, which contributes about 14% of its gold, was also idled and the company was awaiting a response to the new offer, Henrika Basterfield, the company’s spokeswoman, said.
Workers at the Blyvoor gold mine owned by Village Main Reef have returned to work, and those at privately-held Samancor.
Lonmin said there had been disruptions on Thursday after 4,000 workers, mainly at its Karee mine, refused to go underground. The workers were upset by the arrest of two people on the company’s property by police investigating murder, said Lonmin’s spokeswoman Sue Vey.
Workers began returning in the afternoon.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has fired 12,000 workers and is adamant it will not reinstate them. It has, however, agreed to delay the dismissals at its Union and Amandelbult mines to give negotiations with the unions a chance of success. Amplats mines around Rustenburg and those north of the Pilanesberg nature reserve are idled by the illegal work stoppage that started five weeks ago and has cost at least R700m in lost revenue.
Amplats is starting early wage talks with the NUM, Uasa and the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, to encourage workers to return.