PRECIOUS metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater said it would not be coerced into acceding to demands for higher wages by labour unions, who have called for its members to intensify the strike.
This after the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) on Tuesday signalling their intent to intensify the strike at the mining firm’s operations, which began on March 9.
The strike as of yesterday had continued for 36 days, during which the principle of “no work, no pay” applied.
Labour unions Uasa and Solidarity in February accepted the mining firm’s wage offer of a R700 per month increase in basic annual wages each year for a period of three years: a 6.8 percent increase in year one, 6.4 percent in year two and 6 percent in year three for Category 4 employees. This would add R1.5 billion to the wage bill at the South Africa gold operations.
In contrast, NUM and Amcu rejected the wage offer and want a 9.8 percent increase in year one, 8.8 percent in year two and 8.2 percent in year three for Category 4 employees - well above inflation, adding R2.5bn to the firm’s wage bill.
“The additional R1 billion in the wage base from the union demands is equivalent to an approximate R40 000/kg increase in costs, which would essentially erode the R46 443/kg All-in Sustaining Cost (AISC) margin achieved in 2021 (average unit revenue for 2021 of R849 709/kg – R803 260/kg average AISC for 2021), threatening the sustainability of these operations and potentially negatively impacting all stakeholders, including employees,” the mining firm said.
Richard Cox, the executive vice-president: SA gold operations at Sibanye-Stillwater said: “We will not be coerced into acceding to demands, which are not inflation related, unaffordable and threaten the sustainability of our operations. In this regard, any intensification of the strike by the unions will have no impact on our position of safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders.”
Sibanye-Stillwater also urged labour unions to respect the rights of employees who did not not support the wage strike at its South African gold operations.
“This is evidenced by the very low employee participation in protests at picketing sites and the constant resignation of members from Amcu and the NUM,” it said.
“Striking employees have lost around R790 million in wages, while government has lost approximately R90 million in PAYE, income tax and salary related levies, and significantly more in lost taxes and mining royalties,” he said.
“Should the strike continue until the end of April, striking employees would have lost all value they could have gained from a wage increase,” the company warned.
There are fears that the strike could spread to Sibanye-Stillwater’s platinum group metals (PGM) operations.
However, the company said it had not yet received notification of any secondary strike at its PGM operations and would take appropriate legal action in the event that this was given.
“Wage negotiations at the Sibanye-Stillwater SA PGMs operations have not started and are only scheduled to begin in June/July this year as per previous years,” Sibanye-Stillwater said.
In intraday trade the firm’s shares were down 0.78 percent at R61.40, having risen 345 percent in three years on bullish commodity prices.