More than 80,000 South African gold miners were to start a massive strike on Tuesday, joining tens of thousands of labourers in other sectors who have downed tools in recent weeks amid wage disputes with employers.
“Given the arrogance of the captains of the gold mining industry, the union is forced to embark on nationwide industrial action”, according to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
NUM remains the majority union on most gold mines, though the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has gained ground across key mines.
AMCU, a more radical union that led wildcat strikes last year across the platinum sector, has not yet declared if it will join the labour action.
The gold miners join up to 30,000 auto sector workers who went on strike about two weeks ago and labourers in the building and construction sector.
Unions say current salary arrangements do not offer workers a “living wage”. The government has warned that repeated strike action in the country is negatively affecting economic growth, with performance already seen as below potential and unemployment stuck at about 25 per cent.
Employers are offering gold miners a wage increase of about 6.5 per cent. NUM is demanding an increase of at least 2,300 rands a month for entry level workers — nearly 10 times what producers are willing to pay.