NUM and De Beers hope to avert strike

[] –SOUTH Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the world’s biggest diamond producer De Beers said on Monday they were likely to sign a wage deal that could prevent a strike at the company’s operations.

The union had planned to strike starting on Sunday, but pushed the industrial action back by three days following a new offer made by De Beers late on Friday.

In its latest offer, De Beers, 45% owned by global miner Anglo American, proposed raising wages by between 9.5-10%. The union had originally asked for 15%.

“(The company) has formally tabled their 9.5-10% increases so we will interact with our members later today, it looks likely that we will sign the deal on Wednesday,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka told Reuters.

De Beers said a resolution certificate had been issued by the South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the next step is for the agreement to be signed “at a time convenient to the union and company.”

“Nothing else is coming up, this is done and dusted,” De Beers’ Johannesburg-based spokesperson Tom Tweedy said.

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.

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

The strike threat was the latest in a series of recent wage disputes in which unions have pressed for increases far above an inflation rate of 5.1%, which economists say might hamper South Africa’s recovery from its first recession in 17 years.

A three-week strike at logistics group Transnet, which ended on Thursday, paralysed ports and railways and dented exports and imports in Africa’s biggest economy with economists estimating losses at above R7bn ($925m).

Labour federation Cosatu, a powerful ally of the ruling African National Congress with nearly 2 million members, has said it may strike during the World Cup over power price hikes if the authorities fail to lower the tariffs.

The ANC has dismissed the threats of a national strike.