* South Africa's strike season in full swing
* Gold mine workers set to strike on Thursday
* Anglo's S.Africa coal mine says output totally shut
(Recasts with new material, analyst, CEO comment)
By Agnieszka Flak and Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, July 26 South African gold miners
are gearing to join tens of thousands of workers seeking pay
rises in widening strikes, threatening to hurt output at a time
when bullion is at record highs.
The gold strike on Thursday could see 100,000 workers down
tools and take about 16,000 ounces a day out of global output,
which could support a rally driven by European and U.S. debt
Hundreds of thousands of workers across the country have hit
the streets in recent weeks, or are threatening to do so,
seeking pay rises of double or triple the 5 percent inflation
rate in mid-year bargaining known as "strike season" and denting
investor sentiment in Africa's largest economy.
Strikes also loom in the key platinum sector in the world's
biggest producer of the precious metal.
Coal miners walked off the job late on Sunday and Monday and
Anglo American has halted operations at its South
African coal mines which produced 58.5 million tonnes of coal in
2010. Unions said they would meet with the coal producers again
for further talks Thursday.
The industrial actions have hit the wider economy with
petrol workers in the third week of a strike and previous
disputes in the engineering and steel sectors.
The powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), with one
eye on high prices, wants a 14 percent increase in wages from
gold employers -- including AngloGold Ashanti , Gold
Fields and Harmony , which have offered rises
between 7 and 9 percent. It also wants 14 percent from the coal
NUM's spokesman said on Tuesday it had given the gold mines
a 48-hour strike notice and Harmony, the country's third biggest
gold producer, said it had been told its workers would walk off
the job at 1800 local time (1600 GMT) Thursday.
The gold miners' share prices all fell sharply in
Johannesburg on Tuesday with AngloGold leading the way as it
shed over three percent.
The ripple effects were seen hitting other companies.
"A lot of our chemical customers are on strike now and a lot
of our factories are on strike now ... It will definitely
negatively impact the second-half earnings in some way," said
Graham Edwards, CEO of AECI , a South African
manufacturer of chemicals and explosives.
Traders are monitoring South African gold supply,
particularly as the spot price of the precious metal is
within striking distance of record highs scaled on Monday.
Spot gold hit a record high of $1,622.49 an ounce on
Monday as U.S. President Barack Obama warned that failure to
reach an agreement to avert debt default could cause a deep
"Declining mine supply, higher production costs, and less
central bank selling are almost turning gold into a bit of a
supply and demand commodity, even though 95 percent of its
behaviour is still currency or investor-flow related," said
Robin Bhar, an analyst at Credit Agricole.
"But if you're holding gold you're not going to want to sell
it against a background of strikes in South Africa, which is the
South Africa was once the world's largest gold producer, but
in 2010 ranked behind China, Australia and the United States,
Reuters' data showed.
COAL AND FUEL TALKS
Should the coal strike be prolonged, it could hit the
already strained power supply along with coal exports.
Utility Eskom, which has a virtual monopoly in South Africa
and has tight supplies, said the strike posed no immediate
danger to its coal-fired plants as it has extra stocks.
Employers over the past two years have struck wage deals
averaging about 8 percent. Many companies view above-inflation
settlements as a necessary cost of doing business in South
Africa. They have also slashed jobs over the period to make up
for the higher personnel costs.
Unions will also hold talks with employers in the fuel
sector, hoping to end a strike which is into its third week and
has left hundreds of pumps dry across the country.
Economists have said wage settlements well above inflation
could hurt competitiveness and the long-term outlook by driving
up the labour costs.
But unions argue the official inflation rate does not
reflect the full impact of rising food and fuel prices on the
incomes of their rank and file.
"When you see workers strike for higher wages, it signals
that they are taking strain. Consumers are taking strain because
energy costs have gone up, like electricity, food prices are
also up, that's where the problem lies," said Freddie Mitchell,
an economist at the Efficient Group.
(Additional reporting by Jan Harvey in London and David Dolan
and Phumza Macanda in Johannesburg; Editing by Alison Birrane)