30,000 coal miners go on strike in South Africa

5 October 2015 (Last Updated October 5th, 2015 18:30)

More than 30,000 coal miners in South Africa have launched an indefinite strike after discussions over wages failed.

Coal Excavator

More than 30,000 coal miners in South Africa have launched an indefinite strike after discussions over wages failed.

Being led by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the strike is expected to continue until the workers and their employers reach a solution.

The union is demanding a 14% rise in wages, in addition to the 14% increase being sought for the lowest paid workers in the coal mining industry.

However, the companies offered to increase wages by around 8%.

NUM spokesman LivhuwaniMammburu told AFP: "We took the decision to strike because we reached a deadlock."

"We believe that the massive retrenchments may send a message that the ANC is useless and that it can't defend the workers."

The strike is expected to worsen, and comes at a time when South Africa is facing a severe shortage of electricity. The country meets approximately 77% of its energy needs from coal.

South Africa consumes almost three quarters of the 255 million tonnes of coal produced domestically.

Last month, NUM accused the companies of politically targeting the government through their work practices.

NUM general secretary David Sipunzi was previously quoted by Reuters as saying: "We believe that the massive retrenchments may send a message that the ANC (ruling African National Congress party) is useless and that it can't defend the workers."

The strike follows recent job cuts announced by various mining majors citing low commodity prices and rising wage demands.


Image: South Africa depends heavily on coal for its electricity needs. Photo: courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.