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'It’s not over till the fat lady sings’ as unions gear up for Sibanye strike

’It's not over until the fat lady sings,’ says labour after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) issued a strike certificate to unions at precious metal producer, Sibanye-Stillwater, after wage negations collapsed late last year. Picture: Itumeleng English

’It's not over until the fat lady sings,’ says labour after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) issued a strike certificate to unions at precious metal producer, Sibanye-Stillwater, after wage negations collapsed late last year. Picture: Itumeleng English

Published Jan 17, 2022

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“It's not over until the fat lady sings,” says labour after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) issued a strike certificate to unions at precious metal producer, Sibanye-Stillwater, after wage negations collapsed late last year.

The certificate permits the unions, which include the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity, and Uasa, to embark on a strike at Sibanye's South African gold operations in Gauteng and the Free State and the company to implement a lockout within a 12-month period from issuance.

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Uasa sector manager for the mining Franz Stehring confirmed that the unions received the certificate. "The company has made it clear that they are willing to talk to us. For us, it's not over until the fat lady sings,“ he said.

Wage talks between unions and Sibanye deadlocked in November 2021 after the unions rejected the company’s wage offer. The CCMA has been mediating the dispute.

Sibanye is offering category 4 to 8 employees and an increase of R520 per month in year one, R610 per month in year two, and R640 per month in year three, which includes an R40 per month increase in the Living Out Allowance each year.

“This would mean that an entry-level underground category four production employee would be earning a guaranteed pay of R18 149 per month (from 1 July 2021) and a total average cost to the company of R19 670 per month by 1 July 2023 or R217 788 per annum and R236 040 per annum respectively,” Sibanye said.

Miners, artisans and officials would receive an increase of 4.1 percent in year one, 4.7 percent in year two and 4.7 percent in year three, the company said.

The unions seek a 5 to 6 percentage wage increase for higher categories, and between R800 and a R1 000 for lower categories per month.

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Stehring added that he hoped that the discussions would bring the company to settle above the amount it was offering.

“We haven't received a final offer from the company yet. As soon as they give us a final offer, we will convey it to our members who will then give us mandate whether to strike or not,” he said.

Stehring, however, is not sure of when the union would meet with its members.

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How the strike will effect Sibanye’s finances is still not known. The firm declared a R8.54bn interim dividend for the six months to the end of June after another record financial performance on the back of bumper precious metal prices.

Sibanye on Friday said while the certificate of non-resolution had been issued, it continued to urge unions and employees to reconsider the company’s offer which was in line with the Consumer Price Inflation (CPI), and followed several years of above CPI increases ensuring that employees were fairly remunerated and equally fair to all stakeholders.

“Sibanye-Stillwater will continue to engage with the unions in an attempt to reach a fair and reasonable agreement but will not be coerced into accepting a wage settlement that compromises the interests of other stakeholders,” it said.

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Sibanye said it had paid back employees for July, August, September, October, and November 2021 based on the current wage offer, even though an agreement on wage negotiations with unions had not yet been reached.

Sibanye’s share price closed lower at 1.47 percent at R56.23 on Friday.

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