South Africa's central bank chief warned unions on Wednesday to be realistic with pay demands before fresh wage bargaining, given the country's "horrendous" economic outlook.
Gill Marcus told the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) that they must carefully weigh workers expectations if they wanted to preserve jobs in a deteriorating economic environment.
"There's potential worsening of the situation in that while higher wages may be granted, (they) could well be at the cost of employment," she said.
"The reality is bleak," she warned telling the unionists to stop "fooling ourselves, it's a bleak picture, it is a horrendous picture."
She said: "The question of an avoidance of high wages..., that's something you will have think of."
Tens of thousands of South African mine workers won hefty pay increases after a wave of deadly strikes, setting a dangerous precedent that is feared could be replicated in other sectors.
Mine operators have already warned that many jobs are on the line following those pay deals and the long work stoppages.
Official data published this week showed that South Africa's economic growth slowed to 1.2 percent in the third quarter, the lowest for three decades, in the context of the mining strikes.
Marcus said growth in the last quarter did not look any better.
"The fourth quarter is likely to be also very low. The average may still be about two percent or a little bit above that, but the trend is the problem.
"We are nowhere near where we could be or should be in terms of our growth," she said, adding part of the declining growth in the last half of the year is "self-inflicted".
Mining production has declined by 12.7 percent in the last quarter, with the country's key sector missing the mining boom twice, she said.
The NUMSA represents about 300,000 workers in the metal production and car manufacturing industries.