Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 22 July 2011 – There is no immediate, short-term danger to coal supplies to South African national power utility Eskom Holdings in the event of a strike, according to Chamber of Mines negotiator for the coal sector Frans Barker.
Employers in the South African coal sector have been served with a strike notice, after wage negotiations with the unions involved failed, and the Chamber says it seems inevitable that the strike will begin on Monday.
“But Eskom’s stocks are relatively high and the companies themselves also have stockpiles,” Barker explained. “Eskom is involved in its own wage talks and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has rejected its 5.5% pay rise offer, he added.
“The strike is likely to commence on Monday,” Barker confirmed, adding that the industry would not improve its offer any further. “We have made our final offer, what is on the table is final,” he told Reuters.
The Chamber of Mines is negotiating on behalf of several coal miners, including Anglo Thermal Coal SA, Exxaro, Optimum Coal and Xstrata Coal.
“We have deadlocked. We have received a strike certificate and we are going on strike,” National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said. “The NUM has given employers the necessary 48-hours notice of the strike and is discussing the date of the strike with its 150 000 members in the coal sector,” he added.
The union is demanding a pay increase of 14%, while coal companies are offering 7 and 8.5% to entry- level employees. Annual inflation in the country is currently 5%, the highest in 15 months.
The pay dispute is one of several affecting South Africa’s mining and energy industries as workers push for above-inflation wage gains that they say are needed to address the inequalities caused by apartheid, the system of institutionalised racial discrimination that ended in 1994.
Gold miners at companies including AngloGold Ashanti Limited may walk out if talks with employers scheduled for Monday fail, the NUM said, while miners at diamond producer De Beers planned to start a strike today, and oil company workers have been on strike for more than a week. Engineering workers have ended a strike after winning a pay rise of double the inflation rate.