Workers at a Gold Fields mine in South Africa on strike for weeks could return to work as early as Tuesday if union officials manage to persuade them, a company official said.
But the official said it did not involve any new wage offer — and the miners there have been calling for a change in their local union leadership.
“There was an agreement reached yesterday between management and (the National Union of Mineworkers) NUM, that should enable workers to go back to work on Tuesday morning,” senior vice president Willie Jacobsz of the world’s fourth gold producer told AFP Saturday.
“But the NUM leadership must now sell that concept to their members,” he added.
“We will have to wait and see what happens on Tuesday. But it is positive, because the NUM leadership gave us the impression that they would be able to get the workers to agree to return to work.”
But he added: “The agreement with management and NUM yesterday was that NUM would get their workers to come back to work, full stop. Nothing about wages, nothing about salaries.”
No NUM spokesmen were immediately available for comment.
The west section of the KDC Gold Mine, which employs 15,000 people, has been idle since September 10 due to a conflict over wages, with the miners also demanding the removal of their local NUM leadership.
The mine lies to the southwest of Johannesburg.
Jacobsz said NUM officials were still meeting with the striking miners Saturday, and stressed that the agreement did not concern wages.
The stoppage is among a wave of strikes to hit South Africa’s platinum and gold mines, triggering fears of major economic fallout, with mining the country’s economic backbone and directly contributing nine percent to GDP.
Gold Fields, which is listed on the Johannesburg and New York stock exchanges, produces 3.5 million gold equivalent ounces a year, according to its website.
The company operates eight mines in Australia, Ghana, Peru and South Africa.
[Images via Agence France-Presse]