October 13, 2015 / 2:26 PM / 4 years ago

South African union signs wage deal to end coal strike

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) signed a wage deal with coal producers on Tuesday, ending a strike by the sector’s biggest union that started over a week ago, workers and mining companies said.

Coal is loaded onto a truck at the Woestalleen colliery near Middleburg in Mpumalanga province, September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The strike by around 30,000 NUM members had affected operations at Exxaro, Glencore, and Anglo American, and some smaller producers.

South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy, has been beset by power shortages, and relies heavily on coal for most of its electricity. The country also exports large quantities to Europe and Asia.

“The parties have now concluded an agreement after a lengthy and dynamic process. It wasn’t easy. All of us had to steer the ship through the rocky waters,” said Peter Bailey, NUM’s chief negotiator in the coal sector.

“The parties will now bury the hatchet,” Bailey added.

The deal will see the lowest paid workers receive wage increases of up to 1,000 rand ($75) per month in the first year, and another 7.5 percent raise in the second year.

The NUM had initially sought a 50 percent rise for its lowest paid workers, who make about 6,000 rand ($445) a month in basic pay, before scaling those back demands.

Higher earning employees will receive increases of between 5 percent and 7.5 percent in both years.

NUM members will return to work tonight, the union said.

However, South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which represents less than 1 percent of South Africa’s coal mining sector workers, rejected the wage offer, a union official said.

AMCU says 200 of its members went on strike on Oct. 5 at a small coal operation east of Johannesburg. The Chamber of Mines, which represents coal producers, however, says that AMCU only has 83 members at the mine.

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