Unions reject Sibanye-Stillwater’s wage offer
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FOUR of the gold industry’s major unions have declared a dispute with precious metals giant Sibanye-Stillwater and are frustrated the company has pleaded poverty during the 2021 wage negotiations given its record financial results.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA said on Friday they had rejected Sibanye’s latest wage offer charging it was substantially lower than what was agreed to with peers Goldfields and Harmony Gold Company.
The unions believed the company could have tabled a better offer given that it generated a profit of R25 billion in the first half of 2021.
They said the group’s offer did not resonate well in the minds of members and might lead to labour action.
“As workers of this company, we are not calling for record remuneration, but merely a fair and market-related increase to our monthly earnings. It is important to give the workers recognition for the critical role we played in the record performance of Sibanye-Stillwater.
“This fact alone legitimises our demands for better terms and conditions of employment more than ever before,” said the unions.
In August Sibanye declared a R8.54bn interim dividend for the six months to the end of June 2021, buoyed by the commodity super-cycle on rising global demand following intermittent lockdowns last year.
The unions are demanding a wage increase of at least 7 percent or at least R1 500 for all workers from Sibanye.
Commenting on the dispute Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said on Friday the wage demand was unaffordable given that the gold operations had to absorb among others above inflation electricity price increases.
He said while the company would continue with wage talks it could not accept the demand and aimed to reach an agreement that was in the interest of all stakeholders.
“To protect the interest of all stakeholders we will take a strike, there are consequences to actions of a strike,” Wellsted said referring to the crippling five-month gold strike in 2018/19.
Wellsted said the bulk of the R25bn profit in the half year ended June was generated by the group’s platinum group metal operations.
“Our gold mines made R500 million profit, we were cash flow negative in these operations,” said Wellsted.
Unions said Sibanye had offered to hike wages for surface and underground workers by R400 in the first year, R520 in the second year and by R540 in the next third year of the wage deal.
Sibanye also offered miners, artisans and officials a 3.4 percent increase in the first year, and a 4.3 percent increase in the second and third year of the agreement.
In contrast Harmony agreed to hike salaries of its underground and surface employees by a R1 000 a year for duration of the three year wage agreement translating to an average increase of 8.4 percent for employees across these categories.
In June South Deep, owned by Gold Fields, agreed to hike salaries of its surface and underground employees by 8 percent in the first year and 8 percent or Consumer Price Index in the second and third years of the agreement.
The unions pleaded with Sibanye to desist from its threats to close its operations at Beatrix, Driefontein and Kloof.
“The company must also stop this tactic of threatening workers with retrenchments every time they table wage demands. This is tantamount to negotiating in bad faith,” they said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE