Bi-annual union meeting kicks off as miners seek double pay.
Gold mining companies and mining unions have begun talks in South Africa today over wage increases during what has become one of the most turbulent period for gold prices in recent times.
The negotiations take place on a bi-annual basis at Johannesburg’s Chamber of Mines, typically taking at least two months to be resolved. It is believed this year’s talks could take much longer owing to strike action and losses felt by mining companies.
It is understood that about 120 unionists will sit down with 14 representatives from gold mining companies including AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Village Main Reef, Evander Gold Mines, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and Rand Uranium. The unions present will include the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which represents 17% of the gold workforce, as well as more established groups such as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
South African gold mining firms are battling a number of issues beyond the volatile gold price, including increasing labour and electricity costs, low demand and deepening mine shafts that bring safety issues.
According to the BBC the outcome of this year’s talks could determine the future of the gold mining industry in South Africa, with "billions of dollars in exports and tens of thousands of jobs at stake".
Strike action owing to pay and working conditions in South Africa has lead to violence in recent times, most notably in August last year at Lonmin’s platinum mine where police and miners clashed leading to the shooting and death of 34 miners.