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South African gold miners protest over “slave wages”



About 80,000 gold miners have gone on strike, demanding an increase of the salary and accusing top bosses of the industry of ‘arrogance’.

Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) went on strike this Tuesday, protesting against low wages and calling for an increase of R2300 (£144) for surface and opencast miners and R3000 (£187) for underground miners.

Miners have claimed that captains of industry are awarded huge bonuses, quoting as an example Gold Fields CEO, who earned R45 million (£2.8 million) last year. Miners received an offer of increase of the salary of 6.5% – and other offers of an 8% and 10% increase – which have not been considered adequate.

For this reason, the NUM said, workers have been forced by the bosses’ ‘arrogance’ to undertake industrial action.

The union is aware of the devastating impact industrial action would have on the economy which is largely a white man‘s economy with no benefits for poor black mineworkers”, the NUM said in a statement.

“The union reiterates its position of rejecting with contempt slave wages as represented by an increase of a meagre 6.5% or R300 (£18) per month”.

The union said it is still on its position of a raise of the minimum wage from R4400 (£275) to R5500 (£344).

Nearly 50% of gold reserves are located in South Africa and the country accounted for 12% of global gold production in 2005.

Despite being one of the core industries for the country’s economy, gold mining often went under scrutiny, especially for miners’ working conditions and poor safety records of the companies involved.

Gold mining is also highly controversial for its environmental impact, as it releases toxic substances such as mercury and cyanide and it mutilates the landscape.

Further reading:

Fund divests from gold mining firm because of ethical concerns

Canadian pension fund divests from mining firm over human rights abuses

Australian bank cuts interest rate to boost mining sector

Green investment will deliver sustainable growth in South Africa, says report

South Africa’s largest pension fund looks to sustainability