South African unions sign wage deal with AngloGold Ashanti


JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Three South African unions have signed a three-year wage deal with AngloGold Ashanti, potentially inching the country’s gold industry a closer to ending a standoff over pay.

South Africa’s gold mines have seen margins shrink and a depletion in the grades of ore after a century of mining in what are the deepest mines in the world, reaching as far as 4 km (2-1/2 miles) underground.

Solidarity, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and UASA agreed to a 6.5 percent per year increase for miners and 1,000 rand ($66.80) increase per year for skilled workers, AngloGold Ashanti said.

It said talks were ongoing with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the largest union in the bullion industry and which represents 32.8 percent AngloGold Ashanti’s local employees.

South Africa’s inflation stood at 5.1 percent in July.

Gold producers have argued that above-inflation wage hikes have added to the cost burden in the bullion industry, which has been hit by depressed prices and labour unrest.

“We are pleased that the parties have been able to engage and conclude an agreement with no disruption to the business,” said Motsamai Motlhamme, chief negotiator on behalf of the gold producers.

Solidarity, AMCU and UASA have previously declared a dispute with the remaining firms involved in the negotiations, Harmony Gold, Sibanye-Stillwater and smaller producer Village Main Reef, after talks were deadlocked.

NUM declared a dispute last month with Minerals Council, which is representing gold producers in the talks.

The unions will present the agreement to the remaining companies to match, Solidarity said in a statement.

When unions declare a dispute, they usually have to go through conciliation talks with the companies concerned mediated by an authority such as the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Negotiations with the remaining companies under the auspices of the CCMA will continue on Thursday, Solidarity added.

($1 = 14.9700 rand)

(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Edmund Blair)