Wage strike hits South Africa gold mines

Majority of mines partially or severely affected as tens of thousands of miners abstain from work.

    A strike by tens of thousands of South African gold miners for higher pay has severely affected production in the struggling industry.

    Producers grouped in the Chamber of Mines said output at 16 of the 23 mines currently involved in talks was partially or severely affected on Wednesday morning.

    The stoppage called by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) began at the evening shift on Tuesday, with many miners refusing to go underground.

    NUM, which represents two-thirds of the country's gold mine workers, has already opened the prospect of a compromise, saying it was prepared to lower its pay increase demands for some specific employee categories.

    The union still wanted a 60 percent increase in basic pay for entry-level underground workers, NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.

    The Chamber of Mines, which represents industry employers, said gold producers Pan African Resources and Village Main Reef had reached agreement with union leaders at two mines for wage increases of up to 8 percent.

    Problems galore

    On Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma had urged employers and unions to avoid another strike in the once iconic gold mining industry, which is now in rapid decline.

    South Africa's mining industry has been hit by rising costs, diminishing production and labour unrest in recent years.

    Some 46 people were killed during a six-week period of labour unrest over wages at Lonmin's platinum mine last year in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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