Union declares De Beers dispute

[miningmx.com] — South Africa’s biggest union said on Monday it had declared a wage dispute with the world’s top diamond producer De Beers, and had asked an arbitration authority to mediate.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said in a statement it had declared the dispute after talks with De Beers — 45 percent owned by miner Anglo American — broke down on Friday, and wants the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to help the parties reach an agreement.

Failure to do so would lead to a strike, the union said.

De Beers hoped the CCMA could help bridge the gap.

“It’s part of the process. We think that going to the CCMA might expedite things,” De Beers’ Johannesburg-based spokesman Tom Tweedy told Reuters.

He said the wage talks had started last week.

The NUM is demanding a 15 percent wage increment, a 5 percent increase in shift allowance and a 5 percent increment on continuous operations, while De Beers has so far offered an 8 percent increment, the NUM said.

South Africa’s inflation stands at 5.1 percent.

“The time has now arrived for us to tackle De Beers. I don’t see how we can’t give them a strike action this time around,” said Peter Bailey, the NUM’s chief negotiator at De Beers.

De Beers reported a strong first quarter to the end of March with sales five times the level of last year, but is still cautious about the global recovery.

De Beers, which controls around 40 percent of the rough diamond market, was hit hard during the downturn as consumers shied away from luxury goods.