Wednesday, November 11, 2009

South African Gold Fields Facing Strikes at the Continent's Largest Mines

Gold Fields Facing Strikes at Africa’s Largest Mines

By Ron Derby

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Gold Fields Ltd. is facing a strike by 45,000 workers across all its operations, including Africa’s two largest gold mines, should a dispute over recruitment fail to be resolved, a labor union said.

“We have today taken a certificate that allows us to strike,” said Kenneth Bhuda, a coordinator for the National Union of Mineworkers, in an e-mailed statement. Labor unions in South Africa must seek a certificate from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration permitting them to take strike action.

Gold Fields operates Driefontein and Kloof, the biggest gold mines on the continent, which are located in the Witwatersrand area west of Johannesburg.

The company’s recruitment system is a barrier to employment for new recruits and employees coming back from annual and maternity leave, Bhuda said.

No strike notice has been issued, Gold Fields spokesman Julian Gwillim said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News. “We are confident that a process of dialogue should be able to resolve this issue,” Gwillim said.

Gold Fields, Africa’s second-largest miner of the metal after AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., rose 1.70 rand, or 1.6 percent, to 109 rand in Johannesburg trading, valuing the company at 81.9 billion rand ($11.2 billion).

To contact the reporter on this story: Ron Derby in Johannesburg at

Last Updated: November 11, 2009 12:10 EST

NUM may strike over Gold Fields' assessment system

Business Day
Published: 2009/11/11 03:19:04 PM

THE National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) today warned that a strike was looming at Gold Fields (GFI) over the way it assesses potential employees.

The trade union said it has taken a certificate of non-resolution at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), which would culminate in over 45,000 workers across Gold Fields operations going on strike.

It said the dispute was over a recruitment assessment method called Functional Work Capacity, which the trade union says has proved to be a barrier to employment for new recruits and employees coming back from annual and maternity leave.

"The method has been implemented unilaterally and it has seen many people falling to get employment or re-appointed at Gold Fields," said Keneth Bhuda, NUM Mining House coordinator.

The NUM is demanding that the system be scrapped and that the old physical testing and acclimatisation method be reinstated.

Malema's mines bid fails

Business Report

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has been sent back to the drawing board after he tried to force a debate on nationalising the country's mines at the ANC's national executive committee at the weekend.

Malema was told to follow correct channels and put the youth league's ideas in writing before they could be discussed by ruling party structures, ANC spokesman and NEC member Jackson Mthembu said on Monday.

"Our understanding is that the youth league should go and prepare a document, and let us interact with this discussion document," Mthembu said.

"It must start at the (ANC's) economic transformation committee and we must get the pros and cons of (the nationalisation of mines). (We must ask ourselves) is it okay from reading the document, does it make sense?"

"And then the economic transformation committee, which the youth league is part of, will bring such a discussion to the NEC and the NEC might then request that such a call go to the national general council (set to take place in September next year)."

Mthembu said the national general council would discuss the matter only if the NEC deemed it fit for discussion.

ANC spokesman Floyd Shivambu said on Monday that the youth league had already compiled a rough draft of the proposal.

The youth league had already raised the matter with the ANC's economic transformation committee and would develop a "national perspective paper" for the ANC's national general council.

Last week, ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa said nationalisation was neither ANC nor government policy, while secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the youth league's "shotgun approach" to the debate was not going to work.

Published on the web by Business Report on November 10, 2009.

SA's factory output decline slows, worst over


South Africa's factory output shrunk by less than expected in September, indicating the sector was on the mend although a recovery was expected to be slow.

Statistics South Africa said on Tuesday manufacturing output shrunk by 11,4% year-on-year in volume terms in September compared with a revised 15,2% contraction in August. A Reuters poll showed analysts expected a 13% fall.

On a monthly basis, factory production rose by a better-than-forecast seasonally adjusted 3,1% in September compared with forecasts of a 0,9% rise.

Output was up 2,6% in the three months to September.

"This is confirmation that we probably have seen the worst in the current slump. The PMI numbers have been signalling that we're heading towards some improvement," said Monale Ratsoma, economist at Thebe Securities.

The purchasing managers' index climbed to 45,9 in September and hit a one-and-a-half year high of 47,6 in October, inching closer to the 50 break-even mark.

Ratsoma said manufacturing output on an annual basis would likely continue to fall but at a slower pace and could start turning positive in the middle of next year.

The sector is the second biggest in the economy, contributing about 14% to GDP. It has been hard hit by the global economic downturn and helped drag the local economy into its first recession in 17 years.

Nedbank economist Johannes Khosa said although the manufacturing data indicated the worst of the recession was over, demand-side indicators were showing the economy was still weak, supporting the case for an interest-rate cut next week.

"Other indicators, like retail sales, credit numbers, still reflect that the economy, in general, is still weak. So based on that, and lower inflation, we still expect that the Reserve Bank may opt to cut rates again at next week's meeting."

The central bank's monetary policy meeting will meet from Monday, with the decision due on Tuesday. -- Reuters

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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DRDGold to seek judicial order for struggling mine


DRDGold said on Monday it would seek a high court order to place its troubled Blyvoor mine under judicial management to save it from liquidation.

DRDGold said the move had been prompted by the operation's continued losses, which had now reached R27-million a month, as well as extensive damage to higher-grade underground production areas caused by seismic activity in May.

Chief executive Niel Pretorius also said the mine's situation had been worsened by a recent four-week strike by workers over pay and power utility Eskom's higher winter tariffs, compounded by a 32% increase in July.

"We now need a rescue plan that holds real promise of saving Blyvoor from insolvency," Pretorius said in a statement.

"Judicial management is the only appropriate course of action for us to take in the face of the combined negative impact of circumstances beyond the control of the board of directors and management."

He said the company had spent R75-million over the past three months to try to save the operation.

Under judicial management, the High Court of South Africa would appoint a judicial manager who would seek to save the struggling mine through a number of actions.

"These could, for example, include giving certain creditors temporary preference over others and agreeing compromises with creditors without the risk of committing an act of insolvency and thereby exposing the mine to liquidation," the company said.

It expected the mine to remain under judicial management until the high-grade production areas that were closed due to seismic activity were reopened. -- Reuters

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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SA unemployment rate increases

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA Oct 29 2009 12:36

South Africa's official jobless rate increased to 24,5% of the labour force in the third quarter of 2009, from 23,6% in the second quarter, while the labour force fell sharply, a report showed on Thursday.

In its latest quarterly Labour Force Survey, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said the total number of unemployed people stood at 4,19-million in the three months to September.

Stats SA said the number of employed people fell by 484 000 to 12,89-million.

The rise in unemployment was exacerbated by a fall in employment, with 510 000 people either giving up looking for work or taking themselves out of the labour force completely -- some opting to further their studies.

"These patterns suggest that there was a shift from employment into unemployment, discouragement and inactivity," Stats SA said.

"They show the continued deterioration in the South African labour market ... job losses were widespread, affecting most industries."

The manufacturing sector, one of the hardest-hit by a global downturn and domestic recession, shed 150 000 jobs -- 8% of total jobs for the industry -- while wholesale and retail trade lost 110 000 jobs.

The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes those people that have given up looking for work, climbed to 34,4% from 32,5%. -- Reuters

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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