JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng (AFP) – The gulf between South African gold mines and labour unions negotiating a new wage deal was brutally exposed Monday, with an initial industry offer of four percent falling far short of workers' demands.
"The employers have offered a four percent increase on basic pay across the board; and a four percent increase in the living-out or housing allowance," gold producers said in a joint statement.
Monday's offer is the first in fraught annual pay negotiations, which take place this year in the shadow of deadly violence and rolling labour unrest.
Rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and its rapidly growing militant rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have led to demands for pay increases of 60 to 100 percent.
With mine owners squeezed by declining gold prices and rising operation costs, many believe widespread work stoppages my be inevitable.
Once the world's largest gold producer, South Africa's mining sector has been pummelled by chronic underinvestment and poor labour relations.
Talks are set to continue in the coming weeks.