Northam, Kumba under strike siege

[] — The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Monday that over 6 000 workers at Kumba Iron Ore will go on strike next week after talks on pay rises collapsed.

South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, has been hit by a wave of strikes and strike threats, which have led to pay settlements well above inflation – at 3.7 percent in July – and raised fears that the cost of living will rise.

“The decision to go on strike has been taken at Kumba, and a seven-days notice was served that the strike would begin next Monday,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.

Seshoka said there was a possibility of fresh talks between the NUM and Kumba, a unit of global miner Anglo American , before the strike begins.

“But a strike cannot be averted on the basis that there may be talks. We cannot rely on just an indication,” he said.

The union said last week the strike would affect Kumba’s Sishen, Kolomela and Thabazimbi operations.

The NUM is demanding pay rises of between 7.5 percent and 10 percent, depending on category, on a one-year deal.

Kumba is offering increases of between 7 percent and 9.5 percent on a two-year deal, the union said.

Meanwhile, a strike at Northam Platinum entered its fourth week after the workers rejected the company’s revised wage offer last week, the union said.

About 80 percent of Northam’s 6 800 employees at its Zondereinde mine in South Africa have been on strike since September 5, shutting the entire operation and costing Northam 1 000 ounces per day in lost production of Platinum Group Metals (PGMs).

Northam, one of South Africa’s smaller platinum producers, raised its offer to 9 percent last week from 8.5 percent, below NUM’s demand of a 15 percent increment.