The Chamber of Mines said on Wednesday it would continue to engage with trade unions following the declaration of a dispute in wage negotiations in the coal sector.
This comes after organised labour – including the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA (formerly known as the Union Association of South Africa) – on Tuesday accused the Chamber of negotiating in bad faith and declared a dispute, threatening strike action.
The unions said the Chamber had reneged on its promise to stay in the centralised bargaining forum until a new structure had been agreed for wage negotiations in the coal sector.
When parties met on Tuesday they could not reach an agreement, and the unions declared a dispute with the employers’ body.
Peter Bailey, NUM chief negotiator in the coal sector, said the Chamber had reversed its stance and informed the unions that centralised bargaining negotiations would not take place this year.
In response, the Chamber said in a statement that its members had previously indicated their intention to negotiate wages and terms and conditions of employment on a “decentralised basis” with effect from 2017.
The statement released on Wednesday said: “As a member-representative organisation, the Chamber of Mines has engaged with the unions on the basis of its members’ interests and mandates, and has done so with a view to reaching a mutually agreeable outcome, based on a relationship founded on mutual respect. The Chamber will continue to act on this basis.”
The Chamber, which represents companies including Anglo American Coal, Msobo Coal, Delmas Coal, Exarro Coal Mpumalanga, Kangra Coal, Koornfontein Mines and Glencore Operations SA, said it was awaiting formal notice of the dispute but remained open to further engagements on the matter.