AMCU calls dispute in PGM wage talks with Sibanye-Stillwater after three months of talks

THE Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU) has declared a dispute following nearly three months of wage negotiations with Sibanye-Stillwater regarding the firm’s South African platinum group metal (PGM) mines.

The miner said in an announcement today it had presented five-year wage deals consisting of fixed average annual wage increases of 6% “and above”. Inflation-linked increases had been agreed in the fourth and fifth year of the proposed wage agreement – mirroring the extended wage deals other PGM miners had agreed this year.

Sibanye-Stillwater’s offer had been accepted by UASA and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which are expected to sign agreements next week. However, AMCU has referred the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for conciliation.

“It is concerning that despite overwhelming support for the offer by employees and union representatives at the operations, AMCU national leadership has again chosen to ignore their members,” said Richard Stewart, chief regional officer for Sibanye-Stillwater’s regional operations in a statement.

Sibanye-Stillwater said the parties had agreed to “engage in a constructive manner” and that it wanted to avoid “protracted positional bargaining in the best interests of employees”.

Basic wages for entry level employees have increased on average by over 90% since 2013, compared with a compound increase in CPI of approximately 45% over the period, the company said.

“The current offer will result in further meaningful gains for employees, with entry level employees on average achieving a basic wage of over R20,000 per month and a total cost to company of over R34,000 per month by year five, or a basic wage of approximately R250,000 a year, and an annual average total cost to company of approximately R410,000.”

The dispute with AMCU is in stark contrast to the outcome of discussions between it and other PGM producers Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum. Amplats, which this week unveiled a new ESOP for employees worth R1.8bn, agreed in May a 6.6% average wage lift with its unions. Implats signed a 6.5% average wage lift in June.

Discussions between Sibanye-Stillwater and unions began at the beginning of July.

The dispute with AMCU perpetuates a rancorous relationship between it and Sibanye-Stillwater. The two were at loggerheads earlier this year in which AMCU took employees out on a three month strike at the firm’s gold mines.

An agreement was eventually signed on June 11 in which AMCU agreed to an average 6.3% wage increase for employees over the three years while artisans and miners were offered a 5%, 5.5% and 5% wage uplift over the period. Sibanye-Stillwater also agreed to extend a R3,000 ex-gratia payment to all employees as part of that agreement.