Sibanye-Stillwater chief executive Neal Froneman told investors that the protracted Amcu strike was necessary to address underlying relationship issues as attitudes between the company and the unions harden. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Sibanye-Stillwater chief executive Neal Froneman on Tuesday told investors that the protracted Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) strike was necessary to address underlying relationship issues as attitudes between the company and the unions harden. 

“There is a perception that a strike signifies bad industrial relations. Sometimes a strike is necessary to sort out relations,” Froneman told the Investing in African Mining Indaba held in Cape Town yesterday.

Sibanye and Amcu’s relationship has soured since 15 000 of workers at Driefontein, Kloof and Beatrix mines went on a strike on November 21 to demand higher wages.

Froneman, who has previously said that the performance of the platinum division had helped to cushion the impact of the strike, called for a solution to the strike.

“We need to find a solution to the strike. My concern is the people who have been striking for the wrong reasons,” said Froneman. 

Amcu last month led thousands of members at Sibanye’s platinum division on a sympathy strike to ensure the company acceded to its demand for a R1 000 salary increase.

The strike has claimed four lives, and there have been reports of intimidation of non-striking workers and violence, with homes petrol-bombed.

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said the Department of Mineral Resources would not intervene, as the government had opted for collective bargaining, not wage increases determined by the state.

“My own view is that unions must be given space to bargain. The state must not try to determine settlements. If we intervene, it should be done quietly – talk to the employer, talk to the union and management. 

“Nudging them to find a solution – that is what should happen,” said the minister.

The trust deficit between mining employers and unions saw the five-month-long platinum belt strike in 2014 led by Amcu.  

Froneman said union rivalry for membership and political manoeuvring were problematic, while the Labour Relations Act was biased towards the employee and created a barrier to growth.

He said the past few years had been poor, but the new leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa was promising.

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