CHIEF operating officer for Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations, Richard Stewart, said on Friday that the group was preparing for a strike in the new year as wage talks deadlocked.
Stewart said there was no an appetite for a strike prior to Christmas.
“We are heading towards the last few weeks of the year in the industry. If there is no resolution now, we will continue to engage to avert any strike. If there was one, it would be in the new year,” Stewart said.
Sibanye endured a five-month long wage strike – led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) – at its gold operations in November 2018. While three other unions struck an agreement with the company, Amcu rejected the offer and led 14 000 members out in the bruising strike.
In the current wage talks, Sibanye is negotiating with Amcu, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Uasa and trade union Solidarity. Wage talks have deadlocked after all the unions rejected the company’s wage offer again in talks held last month.
“We are planning for strikes. We have to. We are not planning because it is something that we want, or something that we intend, or something that we expect. I think it is responsible for us to recognise the position that we are in and to be able to make sure that in the event that it does occur, we are able to sustain our operations throughout the period for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Stewart said.
He said Sibanye had revised its wage offer five times. The offer tabled by the company would have increased Sibanye’s wage bill to R1.4 billion by July 1, 2023, whereas the wage demands tabled by unions amounted to a R2.5bn increase to the wage bill.
“Ascending to the current wage demand would add R90 000 a kg to all in-sustaining costs (AISC) over the next three years,” he said. He said ASIC for the year to date was R820 000/kg, while the average gold price received was R838 000/kg.
He said the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had been extended until later this month and parties were finalising picketing rules to ensure that picketing or any form of industrial action, should this occur, is done lawfully.
He said the parties are expected to reconvene the conciliation process today.
“We appeal to unions and employees: Let’s continue to engage, consider our offer, and – in the interest of employees and their families who depend on them – don’t embark on a strike, and let’s work together to sustain these operations for decades to come,“ he said.
Earlier this month, the NUM said it was disappointed at Sibanye’s poor offer, tabled for more than five months.
“The NUM resolved to seek legal opinions on the basis that if Sibanye indeed say they don’t have money, they must agree with labour to put their company under Business Rescue to assist them to better manage the company,” said the NUM.
Sibanye’s shares on Friday closed down 1.65 percent at R48.32.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE