File Photo: IOL
File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – Sibanye chief executive Neal “Mr Fixit” Froneman is today expected to confirm whether the company can place a moratorium on job cuts on its proposed merger with Lonmin.

Yesterday Froneman committed to consulting with the company's stakeholders on possibly placing a moratorium on thousands of job cuts at the Competition Tribunal hearing into the merger held in Pretoria yesterday.

The tribunal, which adjudicates competition matters, yesterday proposed that Sibanye-Stillwater consider a moratorium on job cuts in its R5 billion take-over of Lonmin, the world's third-largest platinum producer.  

“We do not want to be seen as inflexible. We will give that serious consideration. We will apply our minds,” Froneman told the tribunal. 

He painted a bleak picture for Lonmin should the merger not go ahead. “If the merger does not happen, Lonmin will go into decline. It does not have the capital to invest in its resources.” 

Tribunal chairperson Enver Daniels proposed the moratorium amid concerns that there had not been enough consultations with parties in the merger that will affect 13 000 jobs.

Lonmin has proposed 12 459 job cuts, including contractors, over the next three years at its uneconomical mines. This year it retrenched 2 000 workers as it battled a liquidity crisis. 

Tribunal member Yasmin Carrim also proposed that Sibanye consider a three-month moratorium on job cuts with the company undertaking a feasibility study on saving jobs.

“In the three months you will at least hold back,” she said. 

Lonmin's biggest union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), has opposed the merger on fears that the job cuts posed a danger to employment.

Its president, Joseph Mathunjwa, said the moratorium would not stop the job cuts.

“The moratorium will never remove the axe on the heads of workers at all. It is a public relations exercise to satisfy the merging parties. The main thing is the merger itself. If it takes place more than 13 000 families will starve. Why should we allow that?” 

The Competition Commission recommended that the tribunal approve the proposed merger with conditions including that Sibanye implement some short-term projects at the K3, 4B and MK2 Rowland shafts to save some jobs totalling 3 714 over a period extending to 2020. 

Sibanye shareholders are expected to vote on the merger next year.

BUSINESS REPORT