JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will give gold producers on Friday 48-hour notice of its intention to strike over deadlocked wage talks, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.
"The decision to issue a strike notice on Friday has now been taken," the source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. With the 48-hour notice being given, stoppages could begin from the Sunday night or Monday morning shifts in the country's gold shafts.
On Saturday, NUM had given bullion producers, including AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Sibanye Gold and Harmony Gold, a seven-day ultimatum to meet its demand for pay rises of up to 60 percent or face strike action.
The country's Chamber of Mines, which negotiates on behalf of gold producers, said on Tuesday it had made a final offer to unions to increase basic wages by between 6 and 6.5 percent, depending on activity category. NUM dismissed this offer.
The strikes could be protracted with one militant union seeking pay hikes as high as 150 percent.
The companies say such steep increases are unrealistic as their operations are being badly squeezed by rising costs and falling bullion prices.
NUM represents 64 percent of the country's gold miners.
Ongoing and threatened strikes in several other sectors, including auto manufacturing, construction and the airports sector, are piling pressure on South Africa's struggling economy and the rand currency, which on Wednesday hit four-year lows.
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)