JOHANNESBURG  - Sibanye-Stillwater said on Thursday a strike by workers affiliated to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was no longer protected as employees were bound by the collective bargaining unit agreement and were expected to report to work this weekend.

The mining company said this after extending the wage agreement agreed to with three other unions to all employees at its South African gold operations.

In October, Sibanye signed a three-year deal with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), UASA and Solidarity regarding wages and conditions of service for the period July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2021. 

The agreement allows for increases to the basic wage of category 4-8 surface and underground employees of R700 per month in the first year, R700 per month in the second year and R825 per month in the third year.

Miners, artisans and officials will receive increases of 5.5 percent in year one and 5.5 percent or the consumer inflation rate, whichever is the greater, in years two and three.

However, about 15,000 Amcu members went on strike three weeks ago, demanding R1,000 annual wage increases for each of the three years. The strike has been characterised by intimidation and violence particularly at the Beatrix, Kloof and Driefontein mines, resulting in the death of four workers.

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

Sibanye said during the course of the strike, the collective membership of NUM, UASA and Solidarity had increased to over 50 percent and that under the Labour Relations Act this allowed for the wage agreement to be extended to and bind all other employees.

The gold producer said all Amcu members and other workers not affiliated to any trade union could therefore no longer remain on strike and must come back to work.

"Our employees have exercised their right to work and provide for their families, by joining those unions which concluded a fair and reasonable wage agreement," CEO Neal Froneman said. 

"Their support for an agreement that takes the sustainability of the operations into account while providing for wage increases well above inflation, especially for entry level employees, is welcomed."

"It is with sadness though, that we reflect on the consequences of the violence and damage caused during this unnecessary strike, with families losing their breadwinners, numerous instances of assault on employees, and ongoing financial hardship for employees, local communities and small businesses which rely on the mines," he added, saying the firm would consider all legal options.

Froneman said Sibanye management was mindful of the financial impact of this strike on employees, and that while the 'no work no pay' rule would apply, it would look at how to ease the hardship for employees.

Sibanye said the safety and wellness of employees was its first priority and the immediate focus would be on ensuring that operations re-commenced  safely.

- African News Agency (ANA)