Coal mines ditch central wage talks
Unions this week referred a dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration after coal mines decided to pull out of the bargaining forum established in the 1940s, at the time for setting white workers’ wages.
Since 1983, however, the chamber forum has been used for all categories of worker, but now companies see little benefit in it.
According to Motsamai Motlhamme, head of employment relations at the chamber, only seven of the chamber’s 21 coal mining members belong to the forum.
It only sets wages for about 17 000 workers in the coal sector, which employs 78 000 people.
“Progressively, over time, wage agreements increasingly reflect different settlement levels between the coal companies ... The companies might as well have been negotiating at company level,” he said via email.
Peter Bailey, health and safety chairperson of the National Union of Mineworkers, said that the forum was still helping to equalise pay.
“The benefits are fairly uniform, even if the salaries are not,” he said.
The forum still puts major mining groups at the same table as a number of small ones. “This is about the small ones ... We are afraid they will push settlements lower outside the forum,” he said.
– Dewald van Rensburg