NUM says no guarantee SA labour will calm

[] – NATIONAL Union of Mineworkers (NUM) top brass delivered unsettling news to UK investors on a roadshow there yesterday saying the union would attempt to calm restive South African mine labour in 2013, but that there could be no guarantees.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the NUM’s general-secretary, Frans Baleni and the union’s president, Senzeni Zokwana, said that workers would be pacified by the recent wage settlements that ended nearly three months of strikes in the platinum and gold sectors, but that fresh wage demands would be tabled in January.

“We are not certain but it should be able to stabilise the environment . . . I think we will be back to normal in the new year,’ Baleni told the Financial Times.

“Anything is possible. Our experience is that salary advances and improvements in conditions give you satisfaction for 90 days only.

“So you can’t give guarantees that nothing will happen . . . Investors always take risks. It’s not done on the basis that there are always guarantees from A to Z. It’s better to be frank about this,’ he said.

Baleni said bi-annual wage negotiations would be opened early in 2013 and that it was possible another increase in wage demands could be linked to productivity, an increasingly important requirement for employers.

However, Baleni refuted reports in South Africa that his union had allowed upstart competitor, the Associated Mineworkers & Construction Union (Amcu), to gain ground because the NUM had become increasingly political and had therefore ignored the needs of its members.

“I asked a journalist to show one instance where we prioritised politics. They could not. We have a [political] alliance in the interests of the workers,’ Baleni told the Financial Times.