Bloomberg News

De Beers, Anglo Workers Join Strike Wave Engulfing South Africa

July 22, 2011

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Workers at De Beers, Anglo American Plc and Xstrata Plc are downing tools as a wave of South African strikes that began in steel and engineering before spreading to the petroleum industry engulfs diamond and coal production.

The nation’s employees at De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer, begin striking at 6 p.m. Johannesburg time, Head of Employee Relations Wayne Smerdon said by phone today. The action has already started, Lesiba Seshoka, a spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, said separately.

About 30,000 workers at Anglo American Thermal Coal, Exxaro Resources Ltd., Xstrata Plc and Optimum Coal Holdings will stop work July 24 after wage talks failed, the Chamber of Mines said. Gold miners at companies including AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. may also walk out if negotiations on July 25 collapse, the NUM said. In the fuel industry, strikers resume discussions today after gas stations at employers such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc ran dry.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state utility, and the NUM, the country’s biggest labor union, postponed wage talks until the first week of August after failing to reach an agreement yesterday, according to Eskom spokesman Tony Stott.

Workers are seeking above-inflation wage gains to address inequalities caused by apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial discrimination that ended in 1994. The NUM is asking for increases of 9.5 percent to 10 percent at De Beers, compared with an offer of 7 percent, and seeking 14 percent at coal companies, which are offering 6 percent to 8.5 percent. South African consumer prices rose an annual 5 percent in June.

De Beers, controlled by Anglo along with the Oppenheimer family, said in a statement yesterday its talks with the union cover 1,778 of its 2,818 workers at five mines in the country.

--With assistance from Brian Latham in Durban, South Africa. Editors: Tony Barrett, Alastair Reed

To contact the reporter on this story: Jana Marais in London at jmarais@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net


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