JOHANNESBURG - Mining group Sibanye-Stillwater on Monday received notice from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) that it intends to embark on protected strike action at the miner's gold operations, starting from the evening shift on Wednesday.

This comes after Sibanye last week signed a three year wage agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (the NUM), Solidarity and UASA, allowing for increases to the basic wage of Category 4-8 surface and underground employees of R700 per month in the first and second years, and R825 per month in the third year.

But Amcu declined to sign the offer which had been reached with other unions after several months of negotiations. Sibanye says Amcu's demands are unaffordable.  

In September, Amcu reached and signed an agreement with AngloGold Ashanti after they tabled an offer which comprised of a R1,000 increment for Category 4-8 mineworkers and a 6.5 percent  increment for miners and artisans and officials, meaning there would be no miner earning less than R14 000 per month even at entry level.

The union held a central mass meeting on Sunday at Sibanye's Driefontein mine where a resolution was taken to give the miner a 48-hour strike notice.

Neal Froneman, Sibanye chief executive, said the average basic wages for category 4-8 employees were significantly above inflation and had increased by more than 65 percent since Sibanye was unbundled from Gold Fields in 2013, adding that the current wage agreement reached with NUM, Solidarity and UASA was well in excess of inflation.

"It is disappointing that Amcu leadership has chosen this course of action, despite ongoing engagement with Amcu representatives, since June," Froneman said.

"The agreement we reached with the other unions is fair and final and considers the current challenges facing our gold operations. We will honour this agreement and have made a commitment that we will not increase the offer."

Sibanye currently employs approximately 32,200 people at its South African gold operations, with Amcu representing approximately 43 percent of employees in the bargaining unit.

Froneman said the offer accepted by the other unions is currently being implemented across the gold operations, and all employees, including Amcu members, will benefit from the increase. 

"The fact that Amcu national leadership is willing to take its members out on strike ahead of the December holiday period, is very unfortunate and irresponsible, given the financial consequences a strike will have on our employees and their families," Froneman said. 

"Employees who decide to go on strike will not receive wages however and we will not be increasing our offer, so the decision by Amcu leadership to call a strike, when they are aware of the hardship it will cause their members over the festive season, is perplexing and of grave concern."

Froneman urged Amcu and its members to strike peacefully and respect the right of the other employees to continue working without any intimidation or violence.

- African News Agency (ANA)