Sibanye-Stillwater says gold wage talks “constructive” as AMCU calls meeting to weigh offer

Joseph Mathunjwa, president, AMCU

SIBANYE-Stillwater described wage discussions with unions as “constructive” ahead of a mass meeting on Friday called by the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), its coalition partner.

In a short video clip distributed on social media, Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the union, can be heard calling for the meeting, controversially to be held at Pretoria’s Union Buildings, the official seat of the South African government.

“All members of the AMCU/NUM ‘Numco’ to give feedback of an offer from an employer tomorrow,” Mathunjwa said.

The two unions formed a coalition with a third – Solidarity – last year in order to negotiate wage increases at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines near Johannesburg and in the Free State. Solidarity subsequently agreed a wage deal with Sibanye-Stillwater prior to a strike being called by AMCU and NUM, now in its third month.

“We have had constructive engagements. The commissioners have made proposals that are being considered,” said James Wellsted, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Sibanye-Stillwater. He was referring to recent mediation by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in an effort to bring the strike to an end.

Wellsted declined to say if Sibanye-Stillwater had adjusted its wage increase offer upwards or changed its structure which was last at R850/month for entry-level employees for a three year agreement. AMCU and NUM are demanding a R1,150/month improvement in wages. 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.

Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, told Miningmx on May 14 that his company could offer unions “a back door” in an effort to end the strike.

“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.

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.

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