Sibanye-Stillwater has reached an agreement with labour unions to limit job losses at its Kloof 4 Shaft operation, the company said on Friday, bringing relief to some of the 3 000 employees who were facing a bleak festive season.
In September, Sibanye announced a restructuring, which it said at the time could lead to the laying off of as many as 3 000 mineworkers at the shaft, which was saddled with safety and viability challenges.
On Friday, the company said it had concluded Section 189 consultations regarding the proposed restructuring of its SA gold operations. This restructuring was in light of losses being experienced at the Kloof 4 shaft.
“Constructive consultations were held between the company and affected stakeholders over 78 days, during which various avoidance measures to mitigate possible retrenchments and minimise job losses at the Kloof 4 shaft and associated services were considered,” the company said.
This resulted in 1 057 of the affected employees accepting transfers to fill vacant positions at the other SA gold operations. A further 176 employees and 23 contractors would temporarily be retained during Kloof 4 shaft's decommissioning phase, while 550 employees from Kloof 4 shaft were granted voluntary separation (VSPs) or early retirement packages.
About 348 more employees from across Sibanye-Stillwater's SA gold operations had also signed up for voluntary retrenchment and early retirement packages.
However, 575 employees from the Kloof 4 Shaft “could not be accommodated in the agreed avoidance measures” and were being laid off.
"While the decision to close or restructure operations is never taken lightly, the closure of Kloof 4 shaft was necessary to curb ongoing financial losses. The S189 consultation process encouragingly achieved this required outcome while also reducing the number of retrenchments,” said Neal Froneman, chief executive of Sibanye-Stillwater.
Gideon du PlessiS, secretary general for labour union Solidarity, said the mining sector was “under enormous pressure”, with lay-offs worsening.
“The only way to increase the sustainability of the sector and to prevent job losses are to control those elements we have control over, (such as) improving labour relations, increased productivity, create regulatory certainty, resolve the electricity crisis and empower communities,” he said.
Lay-offs have been worsening across South Africa’s metals and mining sector. Last week, ArcelorMittal South Africa said it could axe up to 3 500 employees as it shuts down its long steel manufacturing at Vereening and Newcastle.
Sibanye-Stillwater was also laying off 4 000 employees from its South African platinum group metals (PGM) operations, while Impala Platinum has also started voluntary retrenchment at Rustenburg and at its head office.