Unions call for strike over wages at De Beers

4th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Diamond miners have ended their two-week strike at De Beers, after reaching a deal for wage increases of up to 10 percent, the company said Thursday.

Entry-level workers will receive 10-percent increases, while more skilled employees will receive eight-percent raises, De Beers said in a statement.

The strike by nearly 1,800 employees represented by the National Union of Mineworkers was the first to hit De Beers in two decades, the company said. Workers were expected to return to work Friday.

"The leadership of De Beers expects normality to be restored quickly at the four mines affected," CEO Phillip Barton said.

"The normal strike contingencies worked better than hoped for, and overall production targets were met with remaining employees," he said.

"There is no doubt that the strike had an impact, which must now be successfully addressed if employees and the company are to meet the production targets we have for 2011".

Inflation in South Africa was at 5.0 percent in June, but is expected to reach 6.0 percent by year-end.

Unions have complained that basic expenses such as food and electricity have been rising far faster than general inflation, with the national power utility imposing a series of annual rate hikes of about 25 percent.

The mid-year winter months are known as "strike season" in South Africa, where contract negotiations around the end of the fiscal year on June 30 are routinely marked by strike calls from the politically powerful unions.

De Beers is 45-percent owned by global mining giant Anglo American, 40 percent by the Oppenheimer family and 15 percent by the government of Botswana.

© 2011 AFP

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