(Bloomberg) — The two biggest South African unions at Sibanye Gold Ltd.’s mines got permission to strike over pay after a deadlock in gold wage talks.

The National Union of Mineworkers and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union received strike certificates at Sibanye after negotiations were referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, Minerals Council South Africa, an industry lobby group, said Thursday.

AMCU was also granted permission to strike at Harmony Gold Mining Co. The approval ensures that the work stoppage is legal, which means employees can’t lose their jobs for participating.

The country’s biggest gold companies began wage negotiations with unions in July. Mining-industry jobs sunk to the lowest since at least 2009 following thousands of job cuts, while elevated levels of inequality and poverty mean that talks are highly charged and can result in strike action.

“It is disappointing that all the parties have not been able to find each other yet,” Motsamai Motlhamme, chief negotiator for the Minerals Council, said in a statement. “We remain hopeful that the parties will continue to work towards reaching an agreement.”“We remain hopeful that the parties will continue to work towards reaching an agreement.”

Sibanye, the largest producer of South African gold, reduced its wage-increase offer for artisans and officials to 5 percent on Sept. 26 from 5.2 percent previously, trade union Solidarity said in an emailed statement. The offer to raise monthly pay by 625 rand ($44) for entry-level workers is lower than the 1,000 rand more proposed by AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., it said.

Sibanye didn’t lower its offer, spokeswoman Henrika Ninham said in an emailed response. “AMCU and NUM received certificates of non-resolution, but we are continuing to engage with the unions.”

AngloGold and the NUM, Solidarity, UASA and AMCU concluded a three-year wage deal last week. The company is the world’s third-largest producer of the metal.

Harmony is offering higher-skilled workers a 6.3 percent increase, which Solidarity is taking to its members for consideration, it said in a statement Wednesday. Workers on similar pay grades at AngloGold got 6.5 percent.

The NUM, which represents 59 percent of Harmony’s employees, will continue talks with the company, spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said. AMCU represents 24 percent of the workers.

(By Paul Burkhardt)

Posted by resources.mn