NUM confirms new coal industry wage deal with Chamber

THE National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) confirmed it had signed a new, three-year agreement with the Chamber of Mines except at Kangra Coal were a strike is due to start on Friday (November 25) after the union issued a 48-hour strike notice yesterday.

The agreement, which is effective from June or July 2017, depending on the employee category and mine, is broadly a 7.5% or inflation plus a percent – whichever is the greater – for lower employee categories in the first year, although there are subtle differences, especially in the agreement’s subsequent years. For instance, Anglo American will play an 8% to 8.5% wage lift in 2019, higher than most other coal miners.

It’s also understood, although not confirmed by the NUM, that previous plans by the Chamber members to depart from centralised bargaining for the next set of coal wage negotiations has been ditched. Negotiations would be conducted through the Chamber, although it seems on face value that coal miners are being allowed to negotiate slight variations depending on the mine.

Companies that are currently being represented by the Chamber of Mines in this latest round of collective bargaining are Anglo American Coal, Delmas Coal, Exxaro Coal Mpumalanga, Glencore, Kangra Coal, Koornfontein Mines and Msobo Coal. They produced half of total coal production, equal to 250 million tonnes or R112bn in sales in 2016.

Motsamai Motlhamme, head of employment relations at the Chamber said the agreement, which was was after “… months of negotiations … not only represents a reasonably balanced outcome, but will also secure stability in the industry for a three-year period. This is in the best interests of employees, the industry and the country as a whole”.

“The NUM wishes to express its sincere gratitude to its members in the coal sector for the manner in which they behaved during the negotiation period until they gave us the mandate to sign this wage agreement,” said the NUM in a statement. “Our members are excited and they gave us the mandate to sign the wage agreement,” it said.

The agreement averts a planned strike that was initially due to kick off on November 19 after the NUM had been granted a strike certificate. Fortunately, the Chamber came back with a fresh offer which was negotiated on November 20. The NUM went back to members for a mandate on November 22 resulting in last night’s agreement.

The planned strike at Kangra’s operations, however, will begin at 11am and will include every shift that follows, the NUM said in a statement.

The NUM members at Kangra Coal Mine demands a wage increase of R1,100 for 2017 and subsequent increases of 7.5% and 8.5% for 2018 and 2019 respectively. The union said that the highest paid employees at Kangra were getting housing allowances of between R11,800 and R12,600 while the lowest paid employees were getting R4,050 a month – a condition it said was “totally unacceptable”.

Labour unions UASA and Solidarity have previously accepted the Chamber’s offer and the parties will meet in due course to finalise the agreement, the Chamber said.