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Gold Fields South Deep gold mine has struck a three-year wage agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the United Association of South Africa (UASA), in a deal that took place outside normal collective wage bargaining.
The deal will see workers' salaries in different categories increase by 6 to 8% over the period to February 2024, with an average hike of 6.5% a year over the three-year period.
But the settlement is lower than the 15% hike that the NUM had initially proposed in May, and the labour union will be further engaging other gold producers individually, in a process taking place for the first time since the advent of collective bargaining in the gold sector.
Earlier this year, NUM said it had been informed by the Mineral Council of South Africa that Harmony Gold and Sibanye-Stillwater had decided to withdraw from the Central Bargaining Forum for the 2021 wage negotiations.
The union, which draws a significant membership from the gold sector, had expressed its deep dissatisfaction with what it saw as the collapse of collective bargaining, arguing that individual agreements would disadvantage the workers and further entrench income disparities.
As part of the new wage agreement, the living-out allowances will be phased out over three years, as required by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, and as Gold Fields rolls out its housing strategy.
"The settlement agreement is fair and balanced, taking into account the impact that increases in cost of living are likely to have on employees over the next three years, and the future sustainability of our mine," said Gerrit Lotz, vice-president for People and Organisational Effectiveness at South Deep mine.
NUM regional chairperson Ndlela Radebe said the union was satisfied with the outcome of the talks, given the "difficult circumstances" that the country and the world is facing due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
UASA chief negotiator, Franz Stehring, was of the view that the settlement "sets a benchmark for other mining companies" in the face of upcoming talks with other employers in the sector.