Mathunjwa in full cry as AMCU confirms Sibanye strike

Joseph Mathunjwa, president, AMCU

AFTER several months of relative quiet, Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU), stirred up fresh controversy vowing to bring the South African gold industry to a standstill in protest against “slave wages”.

“In due course we will put the entire gold sector to a standstill,” he said. “The salaries that the mine workers receive are slavery wages as they cannot to even buy bread for their families for the whole month nor pay for the children’s education and food.

“We are not inciting war but our workers deserve more and we as AMCU are willing to do anything possible to ensure they receive a living wage”.

This was how Mathunjwa signed off a media statement confirming his union would ask members employed at Sibanye Gold’s operations to down tools on Wednesday (April 6). The union issued a strike warning at 9am earlier today.

Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye, said in a statement to the JSE today that the company had plans in place to cope with the strike. “We have developed robust plans to manage the potential impact of strike action at our operations and will implement these plans accordingly,” he said.

“We will also be working together with other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the industrial action is conducted peacefully, within the framework of the agreed strike rules and in accordance with the law” said Froneman.

The action was expected after a rally at Sibanye’s Driefontein, west of Johannesburg, in which unions members voted to strike. This was despite a Labour Appeal Court decision last month which effectively makes AMCU’s strike illegal.

The Labour Court ruled that AMCU, as a minority union, would have to accept the wage increase agreement signed between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), UASA and Solidarity and the Chamber of Mines on behalf of Sibanye, AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony Gold in October last year. The wage pact, which offered entry level workers increases of up to 12.5%, was over three years.

Mathunjwa, however, said AMCU was actually the majority union at Sibanye Gold. “We will not be deterred by the Labour Court’s verdict of dismissing our appeal nor will we be threatened by the employer because Sibanye and its CEO, Neal Froneman know as well as we do that we are the majority,” he said.

AMCU has said in the past that Sibanye had failed to update its union membership figures at its operations. According to Sibanye, AMCU membership extends to about 40% of Sibanye’s 45,000-strong workforce.

“Froneman is enriching himself with the blood of the workers and seems to have his sight set on becoming the next Anglo American of South Africa in the 21st century,” said Mathunjwa.

Sibanye said it would not open new negotiations with AMCU after having signed wage deals with the other unions. “We wish to advise that the wage increases implemented in 2015 are final and the decision taken by the AMCU leadership will not yield a different outcome”, said Froneman.

It also believed there wasn’t much appetite for a strike among workers.


    • Margins are quite comfortable in the gold sector, so room for higher wages. The platinum sector is making losses, nothing left to pay more for workers.

      However, 26% of mines should be owned by BEE investors. Those “investors” are only shell companies, workers should demand the 26% for themselves.

      It will not make them live better, but it will make a big difference years down the road.

  1. Maybe the article is making a wrong judgment about the legality of the strike.
    The court case was about the 2013 wage agreement where majority unions (company level) made a deal with employers and Amcu wanted to strike even as they were a minority union (company level) back had majority in some mines only.
    If the court had ruled in favor of Amcu that would have meant they could strike in the whole gold sector for the 2013 and 2015 wage agreements. But they are not allowed to do that.
    What they will do however is strike at Sibanye for the 2015 wage agreements. NUM is not a majority union there (they are at all other gold mining companies) and that means the NUM agreement cannot be forced onto them there. They even have a strike certificate and that for a very long time. Despite the rhetoric and communism nonsense Amcu followed a sane strategy here: They did wait for the outcome which could have meant they could strike in the gold sector. Now they will follow through with their planned strike at Sibanye only.
    And why should there be no appetite for strike? Sibanye is making huge huge profits now due to the higher gold price. An Amcu strike will lead to roughly 50% less workers and bottlenecks because of disruptions for other union’s workers. Output could fall much more than 50%. The problem for Sibanye is they have strong reasons to give in to the demands. But that would mean Amcu workers will earn more than NUM workers. If that happens NUM is history in the gold sector too. Apart from that there could even be a minor chance of a protracted strike. Good luck Neal.

    • Bcause ppl dnt learn;even today whr is R12500?ppl lost their lifes;their cars;houses and so on;now dat demon has hit a gold sector;while da man is deducting his monthly subcription;Lomnin is cutting da cost by letting poor mineworkers go bcause of dat 5months strike;anyway whn wil dis man going to forst Lilly Mine to bring da remains of 3ppl died 3months ago in a container in Mp?bt his union is a majority there mxm

  2. @David I fail to comprehend your assertion that JosephM is stirring up fresh controversy. This is certainly not fresh news. AMCU has made this pronouncements many moons ago and that is why NealF and his team have already devised ‘robust plans’ to manage the potential impact of the strike. We can only hope the plans does not include the poor SAPS. It is however disconcerting that instead of trying to find each other in these trying economic times both parties have decided to look the other way. If no new negotiations will not be entertained as NealF said, then we need to prepare ourselves for a possible Marikana 2. The outcome will only be devastating to the poor mineworkers who will continue to remain in squalor squatter camps, whilst NealF’s empire will remain intact. I only wonder what will happen in Rustenburg because NealF aims to cut cost by 10% and increase productivity as well as the life of the mines. If they can’t find each other in the ‘Gold fields’, what magic will make them find each other in the ‘Platinum fields’?

  3. If Joseph really wanted to look after his workers and build credibility in the industry he should have taken the olive branch extended to him to enter dialogue about benefits when things improve. This would win him points across the industry. Standing on a soap box and saying members are not getting a living wage is rhetoric point scoring and something people do in prep school. Grow up Joseph and do something responsible and sit down with Neal and Co. and demonstrate to your members, the market and shareholders that sanity can prevail.

    • You should be aware of Amcu’s true motivation: It is not to get the best wages for members. It is to get the most members. So far Joseph was a genius in that regard. I think the best long term value to mine workers would be equity participation. The situations is more dangerous than it seems.

  4. Rhetoric is what we are used to. What JosephM is not aware of is that NealF is all about divide and conquer and that is why he does not want to extend some of the workplace benefits to AMCU.

    once the dust has settled and JosephM has come to his senses, he will truly learn what it is all about to being a servant who leads as per the people’s mandate.

  5. The spike in resource prices is actually the death knell for the South African mining industry. Wages will be rebased on a temporary adjustment. Prices will fall, many jobs will be lost. The unions have done excellent work to make sure miners earn a respectable wage. It is time for them to move aside and allow market forces to dictate a way forward.