Strike called off at Sibanye-Stillwater after 6.3% wage lift over three years accepted

A STRIKE at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines has been called off after unions were mandated by employees to end the three-month action.

This followed a process of mediation in which the outcome was an agreement in which Sibanye-Stillwater will pay an average 6.3% increase in wages over three years.

“The strike is off, thank goodness,” said James Wellsted, senior vice president of corporate affairs at the gold and platinum group metal producer. “This is extremely good news.”

A coalition of the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) met with members in Pretoria today to seek a mandate for ending the strike which has affected about 31,000 employees at mines west of Johannesburg and in the Free State.

The upshot of the agreement – which is to be signed next week – is for a R1,000 per month increase in the basic wage for entry level employees in the first year of the agreement, effective July 2021. For years two and three a R900/month and R750/month increase in wages has been accepted by unions.

The increases are for basic pay only and do not apply to above the line items such as a living out allowances that Sibanye-Stillwater had offered as part of its last R850/month increase. AMCU and NUM were looking for an increase of R1,150/month including the living out allowance as part of the coalition’s demands.

In addition, Sibanye-Stillwater will pay an ex-gratia amount of R3,000 to each employee of which R1,200 is payable in cash now and the balance offset against debt incurred by employees such as tenants of Sibanye-Stillwater property.

Wellsted that it would “probably take about two months” before gold production at the mines was fully operational. Assuming the wage deal is signed next week, there will be a process of opening up working areas in the mines as well as vetting employees for up to date health certificates. Retraining and rescreening for Covid-19 would also be required.

Sibanye-Stillwater produced 892,084 ounces of gold in its 2021 financial year.

Today’s ‘agreement’ required no changes to either the wage offer or union demands but was rather in terms of Section 150 of South Africa’s Labour Relations Act which enables the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to mediate a proposal.

Sibanye-Stillwater had asked the CCMA to mediate about two weeks ago.

The agreement, when signed, enables Sibanye-Stillwater to focus its full attention on wage negotiations with unions at its PGM mines. Discussions began this month.

Anglo American Platinum said on May 26 it had signed a five-year wage agreement with unions that will increase the total labour cost to company 6.6% on average over the period.

South Africa’s producer inflation surged to a record high in April. Prices of final manufactured goods rose by 13.1%, from 11.9% in March, said Bloomberg News citing data from Statistics South Africa.

That’s the highest rate since the start of 2013, when the statistics office split its producer price index and started reporting five different measures for prices at the factory gate including agriculture, mining, electricity and water and intermediate manufactured goods, the newswire said.

Earlier this month, ratings agency Moody’s said inflation in South Africa was set to rise to 8% this year, overshooting the central bank’s target amid the global impact of the Ukraine conflict and rising US interest rates.