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By
AFP
Published
Jul 31, 2007
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De Beers strike called off after pay agreement

By
AFP
Published
Jul 31, 2007

JOHANNESBURG, July 31, 2007 (AFP) - A strike by thousands of miners employed in South Africa by the world's biggest diamond producer De Beers was called off on Tuesday, July 31th after they accepted a new management pay offer, both sides said.


De Beers' South African miners on strike - Photo : Alexander Joe/AFP

In a statement, the company said that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had accepted revised pay offers of between 8.5 and 10 percent during afternoon negotiations.

"This settlement bodes well for the future, a future where we are both building and bringing into production new mines, and increasing efficiency on the six established operations," David Noko, the managing director of De Beers Consolidated Mines, said in a statement.

"The settlement this evening enables all in De Beers to now focus on the targets we have in each operation. I would like to acknowledge the effort made by my team and by NUM in reaching this agreement."

NUM spokesman Peter Bailey said the union was satisfied with the offer placed on the table during negotiations which began at 12:00 GMT just as workers due to start the evening shift downed tools, the first to do so.

"This is a very good offer, it is an offer we have been looking for at De Beers," Bailey told the SAPA news agency.

"We put a demand of 10 percent and we got it, so there is nothing to complain about."

Wayne Smerdon, the firm's head of industrial relations, said the agreement was testimony to the good relations between management and employees.

"I look forward to the implementation of the new salary scales and trust that De Beers and NUM will build on this settlement as a good foundation now exists for sound relations in the year ahead," said Smerdon.

Bailey however criticised the company for its brinkmanship, saying it should have been prepared to settle earlier.

"We can only hope that other employers would not be following the same route of testing waters before they come with what we are looking for. For that we will have surprises lined up for them."

De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer announced last week that sales of rough diamonds had dropped from 3.6 billion to 3.4 billion dollars in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2006, a drop of some seven percent.

"Consumer demand for diamond jewellery remains healthy, and trading conditions and prices in the rough diamond market have been improving through the period," Oppenheimer said in a presentation made at the company offices in the Botswanan capital Gaborone.

The slight fall was mainly attributed to a drop in supplies from Russia that the company, which controls 40 percent of the rough diamond market, expected to have only a short-term impact.

De Beers is 45-percent owned by London-listed company Anglo American. The South African Oppenheimer family holds 40 percent while the state of Botswana owns the remaining 15 percent.

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