Sibanye-Stillwater lifts gold wage offer for third time in bid to resolve stand-off with union coalition

SIBANYE-Stillwater has upped its offer to employees at its South African gold operations for a third time in an effort to end a stand-off with a coalition of four unions.

The coalition includes the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU) with whom Sibanye-Stillwater clashed over wages in 2018 ahead of a five month strike.

“The offer was presented and will now be considered by unions. We hope that they, and their members will give it serious and due consideration,” said Richard Cox, vice-president of the firm’s gold division.

The new offer as related to category 4 to 8 employees is for a R570 increase in the first year of the three-year wage proposal. It increases R640 more and R670 more in the second and third years. This compares to its last offer of R480 to R570 in years one and two and a R600 increase in year three.

Miners, artisans and officials would receive an increase of 4.5% in year one, 4.9% in year two and 4.9% in year three.

The upshot of the improved offer is that Sibanye-Stillwater will increase its gold operations wage bill by R1.4bn by from July 2023, excluding concessions made in respect of non-wage demands. “The offer takes into account the fact that the cost of living has increased and is above the average inflation rate of 3.6% over the past year but considers the sustainability of the South African gold operations,” said Sibanye-Stillwater.

Upon reaching an agreement, the increase will be backdated to July, said Sibanye-Stillwater. Should the offer be accepted by the end of November, the backdated payment would be made before the Christmas break, it added.

A follow up meeting for November 24 has been requested by the coalition which also includes the National Union of Mineworkers, UASA and Solidarity.

Sibanye-Stillwater spokesman James Wellsted said in October the company had minimal room for manoeuvre given the marginal nature of the assets.

“The gold assets only comprised 6% of EBITDA (in the six months ended August) and we will not cross-subsidise (with income earned from mining platinum group metals),” Wellsted said. Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold division reported negative cash flow after capital expenditure in the six month period.

The mines employ about 31,000 people.