CCMA leaves door open for unions to postpone Sibanye-Stillwater strike

WAGE negotiations between unions and Sibanye-Stillwater could be extended to December 21 after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) granted an extension.

Currently, the two sides are due to meet on December 13 after failing to agree a three-year wage deal on November 24. Two weeks are allowed to establish picketing rules, but if unions decide not to request a strike certificate at the December 13 meeting there is the option of an extension offered by the CCMA, said James Wellsted, spokesman for Sibanye-Stillwater.

“Discussions are continuing. We are still engaging,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a huge desire for a strike on either side.”

That’s not the view of Gideon du Plessis, spokesman for Solidarity, one of the unions in a coalition conducting wage discussions. “Sibanye started to prepare for a strike prior to the commencement of the negotiations and approached the negotiations with an attitude that they want a strike,” said Du Plessis in a comment to an earlier Miningmx article.

The coalition also consists of the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU), the National Union of Mineworkers and United Association of SA.

“The problem is that it is the first time that gold negotiations take place at mine level … Sibanye has a very inexperienced negotiating team that has no clue how to negotiate,” said Du Plessis. He called for the Minerals Council to take over the negotiations on Sibanye-Stillwater’s behalf.

Sibanye-Stillwater has offered entry-level category 4 to 8 employees an increase of R520 in year 1 increasing to R610 in year 2 and R640 in year 3. The offer includes a R40 increase in living out allowance each year. Miners, artisans and officials would receive an increase of 4.1% in year 1, 4.7% in year 2, and 4.7% in year 3.

However, unions are holding out for an offer similar to that offered by Harmony Gold. In September, Harmony concluded a wage deal for three years in which category 4 to 8 employees will receive a wage increase of R1,000 for each year of the wage agreement whilst miners, artisans and officials will receive an increase of 6% of their basic wage for each year of the agreement.

The total average wage increase negotiated is 7.8% in year one, 7.4% in year two and 7% in year three. Some 98% of Harmony employees are part of the bargaining unit covered by this wage agreement.

Wellsted said Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold division can’t support a similar increase, adding that the company wouldn’t contemplate subsidising its gold division with profits earnings from the production of platinum group metals.

Sibanye-Stillwater has produced 812,609 ounces of gold year to date from its three mines Driefontein and Kloof, west of Johannesburg, and Beatrix in the Free State province. However, the gold division has recorded a cash loss in the six months ended June. It contributed only 6% to interim EBITDA ended June 30, with the bulk coming from Sibanye-Stillwater’s platinum group metal (PGM) operations.

The gold mines employ about 31,000 people.