South African coal producers have raised their wage offer to unions, a spokeswoman for the chamber of mines, which negotiates on behalf of the industry, said on Wednesday.

The talks come at a time when producers are closing some shafts in the wake of softer coal prices.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma held talks with mining companies on Tuesday to try to save jobs in the industry which contributes about 7 per cent to GDP and is being hit hard by weak commodity prices and power constraints.

The spokeswoman for the chamber could not provide any further details about the increased wage offer and unions said they would need to take the offers back to their members.

A spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the biggest of the four unions in the talks which is seeking pay hikes of 3,000 rand ($220) a month for its lowest-paid members, said it would not take the offer to its rank and file.

He said they were currently making around 6,000 rand a month for basic pay, so such an increase would be 50 percent.

“This insulting offer has hardly changed, so we will not take it back to our members. But we will still meet for mediation next week,” NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said.

A union source said the offer for lower-paid miners had been raised to a range of between 6 to 7 percent, depending on the mine and category of worker, from a previous offer of 5.5 to 6.5 percent.

For more highly skilled and higher-paid categories, the offer now on the table is for wage hikes of from 4.5 to 5 percent, the union source said.

Workers want pay increases of up to 15 percent for such categories from the producers, which include Glencore, Anglo American Coal and Exxaro. Inflation is currently 5 percent.

Aside from their basic wage, miners also get various allowances that top up their total pay package.

Global coal prices have fallen by around 10 percent this year, their lowest in nearly a decade, bringing pain to top producers including Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.

Reuters

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