Forbes Coal labor dispute ends

AFTER weeks of halted production, demonstrations and even a fatal shooting, Forbes and Manhattan Coal and its hundreds of South African workers have come to an agreement on pay – though the stoppage will have an impact on its whole-year numbers.
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Image courtesy of Forbes Coal

Donna Schmidt

The Canadian-based company confirmed the resolution of the wage-related labor dispute, meaning the miners at its Magdalena and Aviemore mines as well as its South African coal processing facilities will return to work today.

The two parties settled on an average wage increase of 14.8%.

“Management is pleased to have agreed on a settlement with the employees, in the interests of all stakeholders,” president and chief executive officer Stephan Theron said.

“[We are] committed to maximizing production in the current and next quarter in order to meet the revised 2013 targets.”

Because of the production losses it suffered during the stoppage, Forbes said, its run of mine loss would be about 256,000 tonnes for the third quarter, 55% lower than its projected 463,000t.

Sold tonnage for the third quarter is expected to be about 94,000t, a 63% drop from its 257,000t forecast.

For fiscal year 2013, Forbes’ production target of 1.7Mt has been cut to 1.3Mt, or 387,000t at Aviemore underground, 658,000t at Magdalena underground and 287,000t at Magdalena opencast.

Officials said that fourth quarter sales would likely be lower, but also cited weak global coal pricing for the projection.

Workers went on strike on October 17 seeking a pay rise to 7000 rand ($US789), a spike of more than 100%, as well as six months paid maternity leave for female employees.

Forbes had offered an 8.5% increase.

National Union of Mine Workers in South Africa provincial secretary Bongani Manyoni told the Times Live in early November that the workers were seeking a salary increase as well as housing, a decent living allowance and for the company to adhere to and implement a mining charter while following South African social development obligations.

However, producer spokesman James Duncan said no such arrangement existed for a company representative to receive a memorandum and that the charter was followed.

He said officials found the group’s demands and threats to be “posturing” and were ignoring the true issues of the impasse.

“Wages and conditions of employment can be settled in a fairly orderly, structured manner," Duncan said at the time.

Magdalena has a 51.3 million tonne measured coal resource and production capacity of 100,000 tonnes of bituminous coal per month.

Aviemore has a 1.6Mt measured resource and estimated monthly production capacity of 25,000 tonnes of coal.

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