The Sibanye-Stillwater's Beatrix gold mine. File picture: Timothy Bernard/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - The Labour Court on Friday ordered the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to facilitate a union membership verification process at Sibanye-Stillwater's gold operations within three days, and report back on progress to the court by latest 7 January 2019.

This is after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) filed a notice at the labour court last week to oppose Sibanye's extension of the wage agreement to all employees, including Amcu members, after Sibanye had approached the court seeking to interdict a strike and declare it unprotected.

The union has been on strike at Sibanye's Kloof, Beatrix and Driefontein mines for the past four weeks. It is refusing a three-year wage agreement signed by the mine and three other unions and is demanding a R1,000 annual wage increase for the next three years. 

Sibanye currently employs approximately 32,200 people at its SA gold operations, with Amcu representing approximately 43%.

Last week, the company said that during the course of the strike, the collective membership of three other unions had increased to over 50% of employees.

Under these circumstances, the Labour Relations Act provided for the wage agreement to be extended to and bind all other employees to the collective agreement, including Amcu.

But on Friday, Sibanye said it accepted the court ruling and would cooperate with the CCMA in order to expedite the union verification process.

Neal Froneman, chief executive of Sibanye, reiterated that the safety and wellbeing of employees was the first priority. 

"We are concerned about the financial consequences of this extended strike on our employees and their families," he said.  

"We continue to pursue a peaceful end to this strike and are confident about the veracity of the employee union affiliations presented to the court. We urge employees to return to work by January 3, 2019, while we continue with the administrative processes," said Froneman.

"To mitigate the negative impact of lost wages following strike action on employees and their families ahead of the Christmas holidays and the January back-to school period, a special cash advance was offered to employees at work and to those who returned to work. Approximately 6,500 employees have qualified for the special cash advance offered by the company and these employees will be receiving the advance today, Friday 21 December 2018."

Reacting to the news, Amcu said that this was a victory for the workers as it would mean that members participating in industrial action would not stand the chance of being dismissed.  

African News Agency (ANA)