Implats “quietly confident” of resolving stay-away at shafts

IMPALA Platinum (Implats) said on Tuesday it was “quietly optimistic” about 2,000 workers who had staged a stayaway since the beginning of the year would return to work in the coming days.

About a fifth of total employees at the firm’s Bafokeng north and south shafts, situated in Rustenburg had participated in recent protests related to grievances that led to an underground sit-in last year. These grievances were to do with employee benefits following the takeover of shafts previously owned by Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat).

Implats bought RBPlat last year after a two-year takeover tussle with rival Northam Platinum. The sit-in occurred between December 19 and 20 was owing to “misconceptions” about accumulated pension fund balances paid out to employees and other benefits, Implats said.

Commenting today Implats spokesperson Johan Theron said some workers had “lost confidence in the local elected union representatives and structures” which had openied “a void with associated promises and misinformation for others to step into”.

However, majority union the National Union of Mineworkers had “stepped up” in an effort to address the concerns over benefits. All in all, total attendance was 60% of total employees at the north and south shafts owing to meetings with union leaders.

In an effort to calm the concerns, Implats said it had agreed to withdraw suspension notices issued to 38 employees found to have instigated last year’s sit-in, and had “offered them the opportunity to make specific representations to defend and/or mitigate their actions,” he said. About 2,205 employees participated in the two-day underground sit in.

“We are quietly optimistic that this can be address today allowing us to fully restart operations at these two shafts after the Christmas break,” Theron said.

“We remain open to constructive engagement but hold firm that this can only be successfully conducted in an environment where statutory safety and labour requirements are upheld by all,” he said.

The stayaway is a far from ideal start to Implats’ 2024 calendar year following a series of setbacks last year including which a catastrophic accident at at 11 shaft in Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) Rustenburg Mines on November 27. A total of 13 miners died as the result of a conveyance failure and a further 75 were injured. In addition, the company has announced cost cutting measures.