Sibanye-Stillwater could offer unions “a back door” to end 10-week gold strike, says CEO

Neal Froneman, CEO, Sibanye-Stillwater

SIBANYE-Stillwater would provide unions with “a back door” in order to end the strike at the firm’s gold mines which will have run for 10 weeks on Thursday.

“They need to find a back door to step out of. We will help them, but it’s not about increasing the number,” said Froneman of Sibanye-Stillwater’s last offer of a R850 per month increase for entry level employees.

In the past mining companies have offered unions an ex-gratia payment or restructuring the agreement such that union demands are met in its final year. There was also the option of constructing a longer pay agreement term such as five years.

“We have been through this for nine or 10 months,” he said of wage negotiations. “You shouldn’t go into a strike unless you are absolutely sure that you are not going to infringe on the rights of your members.

“It’s incumbent on the unions to find a solution to their own problems. We will help them but it’s not about raising the number,” he said.

Froneman said his company was not under pressure to conclude a deal with unions at its gold mines as it could survive a strike “for years and years”.

“But that’s not what we are trying to do. We are extremely concerned about the fact our employees are not receiving their pay,” he said.

Employees had been back-paid their salaries to end-March despite the no work no pay rule that exists in South African law, but employee cash funds were depleting, he said.

“My executive feels that we are doing the wrong thing because by paying back pay you provide striking workers to go on longer,” said Froneman. “But that is not the point. We have done a poll and about 85% of our employees accept this wage offer.”

Sibanye-Stillwater amended its previous final offer to an increase of R850 more per month for entry-level Category 4 miners for each of the three years of the proposed agreement. The offer amounted to a 7.8% increase to the basic wage in year one, 7.2% in year two and 6.8% in year three.

Froneman said there was no moving from this point despite the fact unions were asking for R1,000/month wage increase for entry level employees.