South Africans Resolve Gold Strike

August 15, 2005

South Africans Resolve Gold Strike

The nationwide strike at South African gold mines is officially over. The National Union of Mineworkers and the Solidarity trade union agreed to a pay increase of 6% to 7%, the biggest raise in 18 years and up from the 5% that sparked the strike, according to Business Day, Cape Town. The gold miners' strike has paralyzed the South African mines of the world's No. 2 gold producer AngloGold Ashanti, fourth-ranked Gold Fields, sixth-placed Harmony Gold and South Deep.

Around 110,000 South African miners accepted the improved wage offer on Aug. 11 and unions asked their members to resume work. NUM was the first to call off its strike and was scheduled to resume work on Aug. 11. Solidarity said its members would be back at work on Aug. 12.

Battered by mounting losses and stern criticism from government, the gold-mining houses moved to end the crippling strike that had seen close to $82 million in revenue wiped from their books. Mineworkers were also losing millions in wages a day as the "no work, no pay" rule applied to them.

When the strike started, the unions were demanding 12% wage increases in addition to other benefits. This figure was later cut to between 7% and 8%, plus improved living conditions.

The end to the strike coincided with a call by Minerals and Energy Minister Lindiwe Hendricks for the parties to speed up their negotiations and resolve the dispute. "It is unfortunate that this takes place during the down-spiralling of the mining industry, with job losses caused by, amongst others, the depletion of resources," Hendricks said.

However, Hendricks threw her weight behind the workers' demands on improved housing and living conditions. "Mineworkers should be given the opportunity to live with their families, in decent houses. The legacy of single-sex hostels should be done away with," she said.

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