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South African Mining Settlement

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10 August, 2005ICEM News release No. 53/2001

South Africa's miners have approved an offer from the last three gold firms to settle with the National Union of Mineworkers, the NUM announced in Johannesburg this afternoon.

The deal with Goldfields, Harmony and DRD means that the NUM can now sign a national agreement on wages and conditions with the Chamber of Mines, thus averting strikes in South Africa's biggest-employing sector.

For the first time ever in a national bargaining round, the NUM has secured all of its demands. These include a minimum monthly wage of 2 000 Rand (about US$ 244) by the year 2002. The basic minimum is an entry point amount for miners joining the industry. At present, their monthly pay ranges from 1 200 to 1 600 Rand (about US$ 146 to 195). Increased annual leave is another gain.

The campaign was also remarkable for the support that the union received from a number of major gold investors, shocked by the conditions under which this high-value commodity is mined. In South Africa's mines, low pay rates have long been mirrored by high accident rates. Recently, however, union-management cooperation has gone some way towards cutting the number of deaths and injuries.

At the global level, the NUM is affiliated to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM). "The NUM has conducted a strong, well-structured campaign," said ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs today. "We congratulate South African mineworkers on their achievement."

The following is the full text of a statement issued this afternoon by NUM Vice-President Crosby Moni:

Today we bring good news for the mining industry and the country as a whole.

The 2001 wage review between the National Union of Mineworkers and the employers is regarded by us as negotiations with a difference. For the first time in our history none of the original demands tabled by the union had to be removed from the negotiations. Every one of the issues put forward was an attempt by the union to put the industry on an irrevocable path towards transformation for a humane and caring industry.

The fact that employers have found agreement with us on these important issues that aim to improve the quality of working life on the mines, means that we will tread this path together.

We must also add that for the first time we had received messages of support from gold investors through the world who, whilst afraid of the impact of a looming strike were horrified to hear of the conditions under which miners in South Africa labour. They were very sympathetic with our demands, especially those in dispute.

Last night Branch Leaders who were part of our negotiating team reported back to members on the settlement offer in respect of Goldfields, Harmony and DRD. We are pleased to announce that members voted unanimously in support of these proposals. We are therefore in a position to conclude the negotiation with the Chamber [of Mines] and sign off the 2001 Agreement on Wages and Working Conditions. We now look forward to its implementation.

We declared 2001 the Year of the Member. In these negotiations they were consulted every step of the way. They showed unity, commitment and purpose in this round. For this I, on behalf of the National Office Bearers and the National Executive Committee, wish to think them profusely for their stance. This agreement is theirs.