conomic analysts have agreed with the assertion by gold producers and unions that most of the 100 000 mine workers in the industry do not have an appetite for a strike that would see companies implementing the no-work, no-pay principle on already overindebted mine workers.
But with unions making demands for wage increases of up to 100% for the lowest-paid mine workers, and analysts estimating that gold producers might table a wage increase offer between 5% and 6% tomorrow when talks resume, fears remain that the parties will not be able to bridge the gulf between them.
And this raises the spectre of industrial action, which would certainly affect the country’s already faltering economy.
Mining analyst Peter Major appealed to unions and gold producers meeting at the Chamber of Mines in Joburg tomorrow to avoid a strike at all cost, because this could halve the country’s economic growth forecasts, recently pegged at 2% for this year, to a mere 1%.
“I don’t think there’s an appetite for a strike – mine workers are indebted and going without an income is unthinkable for some of them. If you look at how the platinum strike affected those who were indebted, it is clear no worker really wants to strike,” said Major.
“A sustainable settlement is a must because gold prices are falling and mines are in a weakened state. Moreover, mine workers have seen how huge demands have led to job losses elsewhere in the mining sector. The union’s demands are insane because the mines today are producing 150 000 tons per year, the same [low] amount of gold per year that was produced more than 60 years ago.”
Research by credit bureau Compuscan showed that after last year’s devastating fivemonth-long platinum sector strike, the percentage of mine workers who owed more than R100 000 in accumulated debt and were a month overdue in payments rose from 73% to 88%.
Mining analyst Peter Worthington from Barclays said he was also unsure if mine workers would want to embark on strike action after seeing the financial devastation of the platinum strike last year on workers in that sector.
“At the moment, we’ve got two sides that are very