Over a thousand members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have embarked on a nationwide strike at building materials company Lafarge over wages.
The NUM demanded an across-the-board wage increase of 11% at the company's aggregate and cement business units, while Lafarge offered 8% to 8,5%.
Lafarge human resources manager Jenny Gouws told Engineering News Online that Lafarge had been in negotiations with the union since November last year, and that the company had offered the workers market-related increases. However, the NUM still declared a dispute.
Further, the union also demanded a shift allowance of R800 from the company's cement business unit, which offered R700.
On the housing allowance, the NUM demanded that the business units offered workers a total of R1 500/m. NUM national construction sector coordinator Isaac Ntshangase noted that the company had not yet made an offer on the requested allowance.
Gouws said that the company was only prepared to negotiate on percentages of wages, seeing that the construction business had experienced a challenging 2009 year, and did not expect a significant recovery in the economy for 2010.
Meanwhile, Gouws said that the industrial action had not affected the production side of business yet, but noted that the company did experience some inconvenience with regard to deliveries. "However, we do have contingency plans in place and at this point in time we are still able to deliver goods to our customers."
Ntshangase insisted that the company should come onboard and meet the union's demands.
"We made lots of money for them throughout the 2010 construction period and before.
"This is going to be the most hard-hitting construction strike action that the country has seen in recent times."