Strikes loom as wage negotiations collapse in S. Africa

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South Africa came under the threat of more strikes on Thursday as wage negotiations between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and both the gold and construction employers formally collapsed.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) issued certificates of non-resolution in both instances.

In terms of the dispute with the construction companies represented by the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC), the NUM has already notified the employers of its intention to begin a strike action on Monday, the union said.

The union, which represents more than 90,000 workers, said it would organize a march on Sunday to the electricity parastatal Eskom, the Chamber of Mines and SAFCEC to present memoranda of demands.

The march would be followed by a strike involving over 140,000 workers the next day. Companies such as WBHO, Group Five, Murray & Roberts, AVENG, Grinaker LTA will be affected.

At the same time, gold workers will be consulted and be given feedback on the outcome of negotiations at the Chamber of Mines where the gold companies made a meager offer of six percent wage increase, falling short of the workers' demand, the NUM said.

Members of the union have already shown a great interest in the matter by voting in favor of a strike in many cold mines, said the union.

"The arrogance of Eskom, the mining and construction companies have pushed us too far" said Frans Baleni, NUM general secretary.

Meanwhile, Eskom has declared a dispute with the NUM which is currently at arbitration level at the CCMA over wages, a move that has angered the union.

"The gloves are officially off, the battle lines are drawn and the fight will be taken back to the mining, construction and Eskom oligarchy," said Baleni.

South Africa has been reeling under waves of strikes that have dealt a heavy blow to the economy.

The mining sector is still struggling to recover from last year's labor unrest which led to the deaths of 44 people. Currently, more than 30,000 auto workers have been on a strike since Monday, bringing auto production to a near standstill and causing a loss of about 600 million rands (about 60 million U. S. dollars) in daily in production.

Owing to widespread labor unrest, South Africa's economy performed poorly in the first quarter this year, registering only 0.9 percent in growth. Endi

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