CAPE TOWN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - South African coal producers will likely offer single-digit wage increases to unions in talks set to commence in April, the head of labour relations at South Africa’s Chamber of Mines said on Monday.
“I would think consumer price inflation (CPI) plus a little extra. That keeps us within single digits,” Elize Stardom told Reuters on the sidelines of an Africa mining conference.
South Africa’s headline consumer inflation accelerated to 6.8 percent year-on-year in December from 6.6 percent in November.
South Africa’s unions usually push for more than single-digit increases, in part because their members often have several dependants and so they focus on food inflation, which was close to 12 percent in December.
The talks may get derailed before they start as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has declared a dispute over the proposed structure of the negotiations.
The industry wants each company to negotiate its own settlement based on what it can afford, while the NUM wants a collective agreement.
The dispute has gone to a government arbitrator and if it remains unresolved, NUM’s members in the coal sector could go on strike.
A South African strike could be crippling for the economy as most of the country’s power is generated by the fossil fuel.
South Africa is also a major coal exporter and Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) said last week 2016 coal exports fell 3.7 percent to 72.6 million tonnes, missing its target of 75 million on weak demand from Europe.
There are about 20,000 workers in the coal companies that will be involved in the talks, which include Exxaro and Glencore. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; editing by Barbara Lewis)