JOHANNESBURG – Outspoken Sibanye-Stillwater chief executive Neal Froneman insists the gold mining industry won't be bullied into signing a wage settlement with the unions this week.
Froneman said that while a strike should be avoided at all costs, the industry and the unions were still far from an agreement.
“The stakeholder that is the most damaged in a strike is the worker,” Froneman noted.
“Literally within a few days, the workers never recover what they lose in a strike.
“That serves no purpose. It is a destructive mechanism…
“We can't as an industry be bullied by that kind of threat.
“There is still a long way to go in the negotiations, and a strike will not resolve the issue.”
The talks have been going on since July between gold producers AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye, Village Main Reef, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), Solidarity and UASA.
Workers are demanding an annual increase of R1 000 while the companies are offering R625.
The industry has made a three-year offer that would have seen entry-level underground employees receiving increases in the first year of between 6.2 percent and 8.2 percent while miners, artisans and officials were offered between 4 and 5 percent.
Amcu this month declared a dispute with Sibanye while NUM declared it with all the companies last month.
This impasse has been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
On Friday, Froneman said jobs were important in the industry as Sibanye employed 60 000 people and would employ 100 000 once the takeover of Lonmin was finalised.
Last month, Impala, the world's second-biggest platinum producer, embarked on a restructuring that would see it cut 13 000 jobs over the next two years and remove loss-making ounces from its production.
Froneman said rampant cost increases in a depressed price environment had put more pressure on the sector, adding that the impact of the five-month strike in the platinum belt in 2014 was still being felt in the industry.
“You are now seeing the impact of the five-month strike,” said Froneman. “Impala Platinum was not able to finish its projects. If it had been able to finish its projects, there could have been alternatives to these shafts that are struggling.”
Meanwhile, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe on Friday said the third version of the draft mining charter would be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa today, ahead of schedule, with expectations that it will balance the needs of stakeholders.
“I am through with it,” he said at the launch of the Mandela Mining Precinct in Joburg.
– BUSINESS REPORT