Siya Miti and Penwell Dlamini
A WAGE dispute will see more than 140000 gold mining and construction workers down tools today, dealing a further blow to the economy.
The move is expected to halt major building projects, including in the Eastern Cape, and stop production at some mines.
More than 1000 SA Airways technical employees, represented by the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union, are also set to strike this week following a wage dispute.
SAA said flights would not be affected as it had contingency measures in place.
Meanwhile, the strike by thousands of automotive workers since last week continues.
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said yesterday it had received a revised offer from car manufacturers and was consulting its members. The offer is believed to be a 10% increase. Numsa has been demanding 14%.
Car makers are estimated to be losing production of 3000 vehicles, valued at R600-million, every day of the strike.
The National Union of Mineworkers Eastern Cape branch said construction of roads and infrastructure projects near East London, Peddie and Port Elizabeth and a dam near Elliotdale would be affected as more than 6200 of its members in the province joined the strike by workers in the gold mining and building sectors.
Workers are demanding a 13% wage increase, while employers are offering 7% for skilled and 7.5% for unskilled workers in the construction sector. They are offering 6% for gold mining sector workers.
NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said companies affected included WBHO, Group Five, Murray & Roberts, Aveng and Grinaker LTA.
He said 90000 of the 140000 workers planning to strike were NUM members.
Investment Solutions economist Chris Hart said the impact of the strikes on the economy went beyond specific firms and construction projects, hitting consumers at the petrol pump and grocery stores.
He said the rand's depreciation was an indication that investments were leaving South Africa and consumer prices would rise as a result.
He foresaw the rand, now at R10.24, hitting R11 to the US dollar by December. "A major reason we have high unemployment is that we are not competitive and, as a result, investors are turning their backs on the job-producing side of our economy.
"The rand weakens and we all end up paying with high fuel and food prices. The reality is that a few may get better wages and benefits but the entire economy suffers," Hart said.
The Chamber of Mines' spokesman for the gold producers, Charmane Russell, said a protracted strike in the sector would have enormous consequences for employers and workers. "Gold production in South Africa is at its lowest point in decades. It is incumbent on all parties to see how we can sustain this industry."
Discussions with Solidarity and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union would continue today.